If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve been dealing with a small personnel problem. Like a formerly trusted employee who went batshit crazy off the deep end into Meth usage. Yeah, that kind of personnel problem. Not exactly the sort of thing we expect in the crunchy granola, sunshine, butterfly and flower world of Two Terrier Vineyards. So, if you are looking forward to the finale of Breaking Bad, you probably think you know exactly what I’m talking about. Believe me, you have NO IDEA. On one hand, it’s exactly what you’d think. On the other hand, it’s nothing like what you’d think. Word to the uninformed: Breaking Bad focuses on the functioning business end of the meth trade. There is very little in the program that covers the using end of the meth world. That end of things is very different and doesn’t really lend itself to prime time television. Even on cable. In fact, over the last two weeks, after said employee had a freak-out so spectacular it was in the class of Linda Blair with her head spinning around in The Exorcist, which you would think would be the worst it would get. Well, it just got worse.
Let’s just say that the high point — or low point, depending on what scale you are grading on — came yesterday. I was inspecting the clean-up two very nice clean cut young employees were doing on a cabin where said problem employee used to stay. I was remarking that we should get a new mattress protection cover and lifted the mattress up from the box spring. There were two or three DVDs between the mattress and the box spring. And then one of these employees slammed the mattress down suddenly. Without my glasses, I couldn’t exactly see the pictures on the DVDs. But I lifted up the mattress again, saying, “Hey, let’s clean everything out.” I should have noticed these guys backing right out of the cabin in horror. Because, once I picked up the DVDs, I quickly saw they were nothing I wanted to be holding in my hand. At least not without surgical gloves and a gallon jug of hand sanitizer. Let’s just say that this event will be the benchmark of “AWKWARD” for these two employees for probably most of their working lives. And they are only in their Twenties!
Of course, we have a good number of other employees working up here since we are building a house at this time. And bless ’em, many read Leftcoastcowboys.com. When the word got out about the afternoon’s shocker, one employee, who, for convenience, we will call Caleb, said, “Wow, is Lisa going to blog about this?”
Uh yeah, Caleb. In an extremely circumspect and heavily censored sort of way. You will never get the full details from me here. Because you would never be able to scrub the pictures from your mind. Although we did take pictures because we just couldn’t believe what we were seeing. But I’ll have to save those details for the memoir or for the gritty premium cable version of Left Coast Cowboys. Sorry. Deal with it.
So why am I even venturing on to this subject? Let’s just classify this as a public service. Yes, I care about my readership that much. Should you find yourself head to head with a meth head — and who knows, you might — my revelations might be useful. So forthwith, my primer on dealing with one.
1. As I stated, meth addiction is exactly what you’d think and nothing like what you’d think. I won’t say this employee’s problem came completely out of the blue. About eight months ago, we noticed a personality change so significant that one of my trusted employees and I were both aware of it. We compared notes, we were worried, we looked it up. You know what we both concluded? Early onset dementia or serious bi-polar disorder. And, believe me, if you consult Dr. Web MD, all the symptoms and circumstances fit. I should add that the concerned employee had known and worked beside Mr. Meth Head for nine years. In the years that I’d been practically living up at the ranch during winemaking season, I’d seen Mr. Meth Head several times a day. So the symptoms and the changes are not that easy to diagnose. But, as my buddy the Sonoma County Sheriff tells me, look for drastic personality changes, especially as regards cleanliness and personal habits. Mr. Meth Head used to be fanatical about garbage around here. If he saw a candy bar wrapper that blew in, but one of the other employees didn’t pick it up, Mr. MH would want them fired for not being fastidious. Let me put it this way: after Mr. Meth Head went off the rails, we pulled 400 lbs of garbage out from under his cabin. And that is EXACTLY 400 lbs. Because when we took it to the dump, the county weighed the garbage in order to assess charges. FOUR HUNDRED POUNDS OF GARBAGE. Just contemplate that for a minute. That’s a big fricken personality change.
2. Everyone else will claim they knew exactly what was going on. Despite the fact that the symptoms are hard to diagnose, even for people who are in daily contact with the “perp”, once the truth is out, literally dozens of people will come out of the woodwork saying, “Oh, we knew all along. It was plain as day. We absolutely recognized it immediately.” You have to shut these people down. Because they didn’t know. Or maybe they did. But there are only three possible scenarios — none of them good:
A. They knew exactly what was happening but chose not to inform you of dangerous, illegal activity because…well, why the hell not? Because they didn’t think it was relevant? Or because they didn’t realize that this might be information that you might possibly want to know?
B. They didn’t really know, but couldn’t resist the chance to have an “I told you so” moment to make you feel like more of a deluded fool than you already feel. Hmmmm. Probably not really attuned to what might be most needed and wanted at this moment.
C. They knew but didn’t want to say anything because they were somehow complicit in this activity. I don’t even want to think about that one!
3. There is an eight month window where you can figure things out. I have no scientific proof of this. But I did work in advertising during the Eighties when cocaine was endemic. I remember those of us who were straight used to look at the high flyers who were weekend users of cocaine. Once they were snorting in the bathrooms on Monday mornings, we’d mark our calendars for eight months out. Because that was about how long someone could last on chemicals in a structured work situation before they crashed and burned. Believe me, we were never wrong. I hear meth is more addictive and more disabling than cocaine. I simply refuse to believe you can maintain more than eight months on meth while working hard physical labor in a vineyard with a crew of twenty-somethings. So Trusted Employee and I are pretty sure we can pinpoint, almost to the week, when Mr. Meth Head went off the rails and into regular usage. It’s the point where he stopped being out on the line with the guys with pick axes and shovels who are doing hard physical labor in the Sonoma sun. Because. Well. To put it scientifically: No f*cking way. So, in conclusion, you have an eight month window to figure this out. After that, there will be no doubt.
4. Terriers will know. Yes, you knew I’d bring it back to terriers. But sad to say, this formerly trusted employee was our go-to guy for terrier sitting. Oscar and Lucy loved him, especially Lucy who is extremely nervous and unsure around strangers. We recently left the doggies with Mr. Meth Head when we went to Japan. When we came back, Lucy was even more nervous and scared than she’d been in months. Was this guy giving my terriers meth? (And the thought of terriers on meth is simply too frightening to contemplate!) Or did they just sense the change and were upset by it? Either way, note to self, always listen to terriers in matters of character assessment.
[Addendum: I’ve been asked to clarify that Mr. Meth Head did NOT give the terriers Meth. Nope, he didn’t. This is the comedy portion of the post. So, his assertion that he would never deliberately hurt an animal is probably true. However, I’ve been fishing loads of scary residue laced aluminum foil, condoms and chicken bones from out of terrier mouths — crap that this guy strewed around — so at this point, I guess we can conclude that he would definitely not have a problem creating a situation that would be dangerous to animals.]
So there it is: the completely sanitized, edited, expurgated version of the great Breaking Bad Episode at Two Terrier Vineyards. Please, no pleading cards and letters. The gory, grisly, not for prime time details will never be divulged on this blog. Use your imagination. Then imagine that the details are worse than your imagination can even dream up.
We think we are in the home stretch. Although we are still wondering how you can disinfect 40 acres. Or at least get a Native American shaman with a burning sage stick to purify key areas. Or maybe we need to invite a herd of priests with a gallon or two of holy water to drive out the demons. Because, believe me, I’m in that big an “ick zone”.
As Travis Bickel said: “Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.” Or off the Coastal Live Oaks and chamise and lupines and grapes.
Oh, and Kids! Don’t do drugs. I’m serious. Don’t do drugs. Just trust me.
Addendum: And in the further interest of truthfulness and proof, let’s discuss the many pieces of residue laden foil we found up at the cabin. Do I know for certain it was meth? No, I haven’t yet had a chemical analysis on it. It could be heroin. But I am 100% ab-so-fricken-lutely sure it did NOT come off a burrito. The residue was chemical and the foil was configured for meth smoking, a technique that, surprisingly, you can find out on the web how to perfect.
Yes…what a violation. It will take you a awhile to get over this one, I think.
Luckily, I’m still laughing at this point. Because, if you stop laughing, you cry.
It sounds like it was a terrible situation, and I’m very sorry it happened.
The “I knew it all along” people in revelation # 2 can be really irritating. Like you said, why didn’t they say something? My guess is D. They were reluctant to get involved. Maybe afraid.
But you may have a better idea of why than you realize. In revelation # 3, talking about cocaine users, you said, “Once they were snorting in the bathrooms on Monday mornings, we’d mark our calendars for eight months out.” You and your colleagues watched for eight months. But who did you tell? And why or why not?
The war on drugs makes it harder, not easier, to react to some situations. The legal consequences to the user can be so severe, it feels easier to hope that you are just wrong or that the person will get help before it gets too bad.
Cocaine use was easy to deal with. You didn’t have to tell anyone. You just explained to your boss, “I actually don’t want so and so on my team for this campaign. I find him ‘erratic'”. Supervisors quickly figured things out. But cocaine in an office is child’s play compared to meth in a tinder dry Northern California vineyard area where guns are part of a normal workday and one flicked cigarette or misplaced pipe can start a 1000 acre fire. Anyone who really did know what was going on had an immediate duty to say something. But again, I think 99% of the know-it-alls fall into the B. category. They just want to have an “I told you so” moment. We’re just counting ourselves lucky that no one got killed and nothing burned down.
Wow. I tried watching BB, first episode. Too many horror stories around here to be able to distance myself from “meth life” as opposed to the dramatic work on the show. Toddlers drinking toxic substances left on tables, mobile labs, so much contamination of places. Very scary business. Glad you all escaped as well as you did. Dogs know when something is wrong. Too bad the terriers could not send text messages. But, like on the bacon treat commercials – they don’t have thumbs.
I think one reason the show is watchable is that it focusses 99% of the time on the “business” side of Meth, as in the people who are cooking and profiting but not using. Of course, now I’ll be watching it from a different perspective. If, indeed, I can watch it.
Wow. Just wow. I’m so glad all of this is coming to a close for you and all involved (I hope?). What a mess. Such a sad and terrifying business, especially when this person has been so helpful and useful up until this point. Wishing you –and him– peace, and a clear way ahead. I spent a long time working around and in the music business and saw too many fine people lose it all to drugs. They truly do suck.
Unfortunately, we’ve stopped believing we’ve seen the last. Every time we make some horrendous discovery, we’ve stopped looked at each other and said, “Well, there it is. That’s the worst of it.” And then it gets worse. There are forty acres here. It’ll probably be years before we find everything there is to find.
Thanks for the shout out 🙂
As fate would have it, heard this on a radio show last week. An actual government song from the 80s!
Our go-to holiday movie in our slightly twisted household is “Love, Actually,” mainly because of Bill Nighy’s hysterical aging rocker character. My poor teenager has grown up on playing his scene over and over when he’s on a Top of the Pops-style show and he looks right at the “camera” and says, “Here’s a Christmas message from your Uncle Billy, kids. Don’t buy drugs. Become a pop star, and they’ll give them to you…for FREE!”
Sorry. It just seemed funny at the moment. Good luck keeping the rubbish out of the doggie mouths. Drug users are selfish prats and they don’t care who has to come behind and clean up their mess–physical, psychological, and otherwise. It stinks so much being around them. I hate so much that you have to deal with all of this. I have a feeling not much at Mount Holyoke prepped you for this (and I don’t mean that unkindly). No one plans to grow up and deal with any of this kind of mess.
Apparently meth is the gift that keeps on giving. Every time we find something so horrible that we sigh and say, “That’s the worst of it”, it just gets worse. The amazing thing is the completely delusional lying. When you are standing there with evidence in your hand — in fact 400 lbs of it — and the denial still keeps happening. Mr. Meth Head’s excuse du jour is that “Kids wandered in and left this stuff” (including in locked spaces that only he and I had access to) or that he’s “being framed”.
At this point, we’ve dismantled and thrown away 90% of the cabin and rebuilt it. This week, we take up the floorboards on the deck to get at what we couldn’t reach with rakes. Wonder what other goodies we’ll find?
I hope it isn’t/wasn’t John The baptist.
It is an employee who shall always remain nameless.