Carpe Diem: Tales of the City

by Dan F.

One month after the first edition of the Big Book was published back east, I was born in St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco in May 1939 to John Flynn and Elizabeth (Stumpf) Flynn. They were both born at the end of the 1800s: dad to two migrants from poverty in Ireland, and mom to two migrants from poverty in Germany. Mom’s dad, it turned out, was a sometimes raging alcoholic. She and her mom and her brothers abandoned him in Montana in 1920 and moved to San Francisco. In 1934 they purchased a gorgeous house at 54 Sea View Terrace in the Sea Cliff District. There were wonderful cocktail parties in the house before dad died in 1949, but I was never attracted to alcohol then. There was a bar-room attached to the Marine Room which overlooked the Golden Gate Bridge, western part of the Presidio, Bakers Beach, part of the Marin headlands, part of Mt. Tam and part of the outer Bay. 

There was no alcoholism in the immediate family. Dad’s only brother, my dear Uncle Frank, it turned out, was a maintenance alcoholic who worked for the California State Alcohol Beverage Control Board. So, I inherited alcoholism from both my German side and Irish side. I don’t have any alcoholic stories to tell from my first 22 years in San Francisco. When I left in 1961 I thought I would move back. I was born restless, irritable and discontented, but turned that into positive energy, becoming the top over-all graduate of St. Ignatius High, the top of three Catholic high schools, in 1957. 

There were wonderful cocktail parties in the house 

My first two years out of San Francisco were spent as an Army Lieutenant on a Nike Hercules anti-aircraft missile site protecting the City of Chicago from Russian bombers. Then in 1963 I studied philosophy at Georgetown University Graduate School trying to find the meaning of life. I didn’t find it, but I fell into a Human Resources career and discovered what a glass of good wine could do for me. I drank for 13 years until I crash-landed into A.A. at a noon-time meeting in Washington, D.C. near the White House on December 7, 1976. I took my last drink the next day. 

Sea Cliff

I was born restless, irritable and discontented

I returned to San Francisco frequently over the years with my first wife, second girlfriend, second wife, and now my third wife of 30 years. We always stayed at the Laurel Inn at Presidio and California and have fond memories of our visits. However, my last brother died three years ago and the family house has been sold. Each year more of my classmates passed away, so my wife Kate and I haven’t been back for a few years. My first primary school, Notre Dame des Victoires, is planning a reunion in March for all graduates from the 1950s of the co-ed grade school and girls high school, but with no family left in San Francisco, I may not be up to taking another 12-hour flight. 

The last time I was in the City I spoke at the Waterfront Meeting one Sunday evening at the Palace of Fine Arts. I learned that Judge O’Day, the father of the girl I took to my senior prom, turned out to be an alcoholic who got sober in A.A. He had helped get me a job in City Hall in 1957, and started Serenity House not far from USF for alcoholic priests. I have also spoken at Serenity House and enjoyed its welcoming atmosphere.

Today I do service

Our life is mostly in Europe now. I have been invited to speak and lead a Life Reflections workshop at ITALYPAA 2020 in Bologna, Italy at the end of April or the beginning of May. I continue to serve as tech host of online voice meetings out of Europe for the “First164” A.A. group. When asked to be a nominee for the General Service Board of Trustees for English language A.A. in Europe seven years ago, I prepared a service CV. I wasn’t selected, but the interview process was helpful in my spiritual journey.

Today I do service for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) headquarters in Brussels as a volunteer teacher, translator and editor. More recently, I published an international newsletter for the Quakers. Life is full for my wife and me now. We are grateful for our health, sobriety and community. Carpe diem! It’s the only day we ever have—today.

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