Wednesday, May 11, 2022


 We were in Michigan visiting family last week, with an overnight in Detroit, specifically so I could visit the Motown Museum, aka Hitsville, USA, the building where so many of my lifetime favorite music was made. We were supposed to be in Detroit in 2020 for the International Convention, which, as we all know, was canceled due to covid. Then, the museum was part of my agenda. This time, I was saddened to learn it was closed for renovation but was determined to at least visit the site and take pictures of the building. 

Imagine my delight when we were invited inside by a guy in a suit out back who thought it a shame that we'd come all the way from Portland, Oregon and couldn't see the exhibit. Actually, "delight" barely covers it. When he said, "Give me a minute and I'll take you inside," I started to cry, and once inside, especially in the sound booth and recording studio, found myself nearly overcome with emotion, feeling the joy of the space related to the music, the artists who'd given their all, and the places where the songs intersected with my own life.

Some places are just places, and some places carry the vibe of history and emotion, depending on what we bring to the experience. Friends referred to Motown as my Lourdes, my hajj, and they weren't too far off - it felt like a pilgrimage. I talked with several people about spaces that carry the vibration of meaning, a palpable connection to what occurred there. For one friend, it was unexpectedly at Kitty Hawk, seeing the hill where the Wright brothers launched. I experienced it at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. My brother and I both felt it at the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots in Westminster Abbey - an almost physical presence in the space, a presence that reached across the centuries to say, "I am here." 

Sometimes that feeling is in the natural world, like at the Redwood Forest, or the Narrows at Zion, but it is always unexpected and absolutely cannot be conjured. I expected to feel something at the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC, which was impressive, but to me, just a wall. Like a hoped-for spiritual experience with working the Steps - "OK I'm ready for my awakening!" - it just doesn't happen that way. At a morning meeting we attended several times in East Lansing, a member talked about levitating three feet off the ground when he finally shared his Step 4 with a sponsor. Most of my 5th Steps have been helpful, but no fireworks. I set myself up when I expect to feel a certain way, whether that is predicting joy or sorrow or anything in-between.

It seems to be, like my experience in Detroit, a matter of being in the right place at the right time, through no actual planning.  I can want an ah-ha moment but it either happens or it doesn't, and sometimes the wanting itself moves the hoped-for experience further away. Serendipity and synchronicity, by their nature, are random, unexpected. And that's ok. As I've said before, if everything is special, then nothing is. And, upon reflection, in each of the moments of awe, those that have bordered on an out-of-body experience, I've been fully present, in the moment, not planning ahead or looking back. Maybe that's the fourth dimension we're rocketed to - the here and now. Simple, but not easy.

We had a good visit with family, and a great time in Detroit, where after the Motown experience, a local picked up our dinner tab and said, "Tell people this is Detroit." We attended in-person meetings at the East Lansing Alano Club, and hit a sweet, small group at a soup kitchen in the Motor City. In both places, I felt the vibe of recovery - the quiet joy of how we come together to seek sobriety or celebrate the lives we've been given. There were a number of court slips to be signed at the Lansing club house meetings. My hope, always, is that a person will hear something in a meeting, or in a conversation with a member, that moves their motivation from getting the heat off to seeing the light.

Have you had experiences where you were awed by a place or a circumstance? What was that like?  Knowing that "this too shall pass" applies to the good times as well as the not-so-good, how can you cultivate being in the present moment so that serendipity has a chance to show up? Are you available to talk when a newcomer is at your meeting?

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Check out the post from Feb 4 for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" now available in PDF or hard copy. Email me at with any questions. For those of you local in Portland, Intergroup has just restocked their supply of the workbook - head down to see Garry and the crew for AA literature and the little back room with non-conference approved offerings.



  1. My favorite part of "My Name Is Bill W." is the chain of events that let Bill to Bob in Akron, and how each thing needed to happen - if Lois doesn't go behind Bill's back to get him that job; if his boss doesn't send him to Akron; if he doesn't feel squirrely and desperate enough to make those calls to clergy; and if the pastor doesn't send him to Bob - AA doesn't get born. I had an experience Wednesday at work, where about 10 things had to happen when they happened - that ended with a client getting supported housing. During my part of advocating for her with the director of the housing program (who broke some protocols to make it happen) the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I was aware that something extraordinary was happening. I love that magic when the universe is conspiring for good. I love your Hitsville, USA story.