Showing posts with label Alcoholism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alcoholism. Show all posts

Sunday, February 17, 2019

On getting fucked up

Yes, people really used to excuse a friend's uncontrolled drinking with the rationale that any one of us would likewise drink to excess if we had the life and travails of the associate who's inebriation causes concern. We like to think that we've learned much since those days when alcoholic excess seemed a way for a sensitive sort to melt away the crucifying agony that is the human condition and enter into a consciousness that allows to reacquaint himself with his Muse, to dream dreams and greater dreams after that, to see from the waves and wanderings of their stupors a clear vision of heaven and the path to get there. 

And, of course, drinking was the means with which the artist, the truly manly and mature among us handled our sorrows, those problematic feelings that are no less a part of the human drama. Would you drink if you had the same shortfalls, catastrophes, betrayals, disappointments as I had, if you lost lovers, jobs, missed opportunities, contracted fatal diseases, wrote angry letters to your father? Some of you would imbibe like I had, I suppose, but in 28 years of going without a drop of the stuff, there are millions more, from appearances, who walk past the liquor store and those taverns with the neon signs that blink and buzz with the promise of paradise and escape; somehow it occurs to the majority of the citizens to get busy and deal with the change in their fortunes.  

Not everyone who refuses to drink in the face of bad times come through their rough patches in better shape, but the point is that drinking to dissolve the problems, real and psychic, is not the default resource for the majority of the population. It seems to be for romantics, though, who, as a species, are prone to wallow at times in the extremities of their emotion at the sacrifice of all else. Hemingway comes into play; we imagine the spare code of conduct, the stoicism, the terse address of external occurrences in the world around him, the obsession with the super masculinity in which one is expected to bite the bullet and be honorable to an insane degree. 

Suffering in silence, writing poetry about drinking to make the disillusionment with the human condition tolerable and as a means of keeping hope and joy alive.  There was a time when I was part of this culture of self-reinforcing romanticism; life is a hardship, you drink to cope and soon enough your other coping skills vanish as you rely more on drinking in order to cope. Soon enough your hardships increase because of the drinking and the pressure from family, peers, and enemies for you to straighten out is too much, so you drink more to not just cope with the hardships of old and the new ones created by inevitable tragedies alcoholic drinking creates, but to make the world disappear. You become bitter, morose, morbid, cynical, continually inveighing against big and vague forces that destroyed your dreams.

So you drink in order to cope and escape, escaping the more important of the two intentions. Somewhere in an underlit corner of the brain is the nagging, chirping truth that you're drinking too much and that you should stop or perish, becoming an anonymous demonstration of Darwin's least attractive idea. Still, that five or so minutes of relief, the ahhhhhhhh that follows the first glottal gulp as the hooch seems to soothe the nerves and loosens the vise-like grip paranoia and anxiety have had on the brain are more or less worth the next several hours of binge drinking, from which more things get destroyed, dear friends and loved ones get called vile names, inexplicable phone calls to suicide hotlines are made, impossibly incoherent poems are written. 

The world becomes a small, sad place for you to be in.  Most the world around sees a sad case of someone who is the grip of some malady, some soul-shredding scourge who will die alone in the trash of his own making unless something resembling a miracle occurs. If you're a poet, a songwriter, someone who has made a reputation extolling the hard life and the hard-drinking that goes with it, you bear witness to what your romantic filters tell you is the Truth of the world and regard your rattled, besotted self as the price to pay for being so deep a reservoir for the boundless emotions of the human race, that a soul who feels so deeply the wounds of all humanity would have to drink in order to keep something like sanity and a sense of self wherein one can reside. A long, agonized spiral of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hemingway, the Prolix Dry Drunk has a story provocatively called "When Novelists Sober Up", luring the curious reader with a hint that laying down the bottle is not necessarily the best thing for the writer's art. We have instead a gutless amalgamation of the usual tropes about bards and scribes cursed with the hooch bug; it's a shuffle through the old cards..It is, in general, a bad thing for those who have it and for those around them, and hinders, erodes, destroys, with time, whatever talent or good graces a person might already have. That we still in large measure glorify booze as a needed ingredient to creative process is evidence of a sad business: we make it okay for certain social types to destroy themselves so they can fulfill our vague idea of what an artist needs to do in society. Considering that we have no consensus as to the role of the artist in our affairs reveals our muddled thinking on alcoholism even more.

An excellent book on the subject is "The Thirsty Muse:Alcohol and the American Writer" by Thomas Dardis. Though there were some writers in this study who remained productive and frequently good during their worst imbibing, they are exceptions, with the general scenario for the alcoholic being tragic and, worse, predictable. The talent that was already theirs to use was soon enough diminished by hoot ch, and careers were ended early.

What was especially irritating in this was author Tom Shone's occasional gaffes in describing a writer's style; he announces that writers of short sentences tend to fair better in sobriety than those more grandiose, opining that the "endless clauses" of Fitzgerald and Hemingway doomed them to unpleasant late careers. Hemingway? And I had thought that Papa, with his short sentences and stingy use of verbs, adjectives and metaphors was the prototypical minimalist, akin to Carver and Elmore Leonard later in the century.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tell You What--a story

Not a true story, but pieced together from bits and pieces heard over the years. Some who have overcome a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body don't acquire the humility or hard won wisdom dreamier narratives would lead us to believe. -tb

“I'm gonna say this one more time" Karl was saying, "I mean how many times you want me to say this? Or do wanna see me turn myself turn inside out?"
It was the stupidest thing he'd said so far on a hot night of post-meeting bluster, but the point was to keep his prospects' attention on him, unnerved, eyes big and sleepless. He dropped the match book to the diner table and fingered the unlit cigarette he wedged between two clubby knuckles. It was creased and mashed in the center. Loose tobacco spilled from the tip. He scratched the back of his neck with a fingernail he hadn't chewed, and studied the twirling fan over them, rotating like helicopter blades. Shadows chased each other across the drop ceiling. The prospect stared back, motionless, massaging his knuckles, watching Karl who glared in turn at fan blades whose rotation only stirred the muggy air into listless currents. His mouth hung open as he considered the useless air-conditioning. He looked dumber than a pile of ashes.

"What are you looking at?" he barked, feeling the burn of his table partners' stare, "drink your coffee." Across from him a man who absently fingered a spoon. He tapped it against the cup so that it made a dead, thudding noise, not a clear pinging, but a thump, Karl thought, like a sock full of other socks being slammed against the side of one of the houses he used to break into when he need drinking money. He threw the cigarette at his prospect. The prospect turned his head to t he side, and the twisted smoke bounced off the padded booth cushion.
'9Knock that shit off' Karl said, He wiped a sleeve under his under his vein-gorged nose. He pulled another cigarette from his pack. The other man lifted his chin as though to speak.

"Now, I..." he managed to say.

Jack cut him off; the flat of his hand shot up and he waved like he was wiping a car window with a grimy rag.

"Don't say anything". Karl was almost pleading. He stroked the length of the Camel studied the pack, wished he were sucking in a
lung flail smoke, he wanted to choke on the fumes of something burning.
Recent California elections contained a state wide proposition that would ban smoking in all public facilities, including bars and restaurants, and unconstitutional travesty authored he felt by fascists and Commie punks This riled Karl considerably, if only because he once swore that elections were a fake as a climax in a porn video whose results would never come to bear on his life style The proposition passed handily, evidence that non-smokers considered themselves an ignored political force who needed to stick it to a group that most of the electorate was out of sympathy with, that, with the death of Communism as universal bogeymen and the rise of causes based on a collectively perceived sense of being slighted and stomped down , smokers had to bend over and take what was columnists and Sunday talk show gadflies assured us, a decision that would be good for the soul, good for the lungs, something that would clear the air and have us be civil to one another in a smoke less public sphere. Karl wanted to smoke, and his sense of duty to his querying prospect, this man who wanted to know how to stay sober, was waning, frayed by rules, chipped at by police, eroded by the current that ran from his brain to his lungs that demanded the aroma of the sulfur, the sting of the first smoke hitting lungs and caroming over the tongue, the glory of the choke the bum, the proud suppression of a cough. He should have voted.

His career as a political forecaster was over, and all he was left to do in diners and meetings halls was fidget reshape one cigarette after another, and think variations on a theme even he was tired of thinking, revs given up everything else, even sex isn’t coming in like it used to, Mi that A left A coffee and smokes, and flow; he though4 these Goddamn those goons wanna get there again, a man gives something up that almost kills him and sons of bitches say I can't smoke with my coffee.

The cigarette he'd been tapping through his reverie was between his clubby knuckles again stroked, stained, creased with worry. He tried staring into the eyes of the man sitting across from him and to start his sermon on getting sober, but the lights distracted him, his mind was

five miles away where he wanted to be, sitting at another table with friends who could make their. own beds. Something glistened in the prospects' eyes, tears held back. Karl wanted to comb his hair, to make this duck tail ride high and mighty in the back like fins of a car he owned years ago in Modes t6, a city full of dust and drinking.

His prospect was named Doug, fifths from appearance, with hair tat was a swirl of brown and white strands woven inseparably together The tines of his face deepened into middle aged ravines that sagged, a gathered sadness. He dressed in a way tat didn't advertise position or hidden money, just cast -off rags, a work shirt, jeans, tennis shoes. He might have been homeless, ambling from a church service center, or a Mercedes dealer doing his own yard work, puttering around the hillside of a Del Mar estate whose ocean view only God and bank accounts could give you. He had a sleepless shiver, nerves that would rattle a train from its rail.
"Well" Doug said, clearing his throat to forestall a stammer he knew would rattle his words, "Well, I mean, could you tell me again, I mean, what you mean, that is, there's something I missed at the meeting and I thought you could tell me the actual method, the way you stay stopped..."
A woman's voice broke in.

"How you guy's doing over here?"

Their waitress Tina , as it read on a her name tag embossed in flaking gold leaf; hovered over them with both arms flail of plates and a fist full of meal tickets tucked in an over sized pocket in her apron. She gave off the feeling that everything about her was precarious and that she might drop everything she held, finally standing in a pile of shattered restaurant china and half eaten chicken fried steak. But Tina seemed like a seasoned server who negotiated the chaos of coffee pots, antsy kids tossing ketchup soaked French fries over the bunkered dining booths, and special requests for Nutra-Sweet instead of sugar, decaf, not coffee with a gliding, frictionless grace. Arms of dirty plates or no, she would stop and ask if there as anything one of her tables desired. Doug desired to go home, stopping at the liquor store for something that would turn off the noise. Karl ran a finger around his coffee cup and hoped Doug had money.

"You need anything else-- more water, or coffee, or maybe some desert?'
Her voice had bleached traces of an Arkansas drawl that had rubbed against the toneless inflections of California malls. The uniform was a cool pink, and looked like it had come right off the laundry truck; the pleats were crisp and curt.
Karl straightened up instinctively, his knee bumping the underside of the table, knocking over a water glass. Water and lumps of melting ice spilled right down the middle of the table, and rushed toward Doug, and splattering in his lap. Doug's face turned sour, the lines in his face becoming became a map of a growing bad mood.

"Goddamn it" he said, "goddamn mother- of -god" Flustered, tried to stand from where he sat, and banged the table even upsetting the coffee he hadn't touched He fell back into his seat coffee, not yet cool. He dropped the spoon.

Greasy punks tell me jackshit I have a motherfucking cigarette with my goddamned piece o fshit coffee; thought Jack Stuben. He shoved the cigarette, newly squeezed and indented in the middle, behind his ear.

The waitress set the plates on the table next to them, where a young man and woman swam dreamily in the inexpressible vastness of the others' eyes. They traded, shared and exchanged gut reactions and insights and feelings about an edgy experimental avant-garde independent firm they’d just seen. They stopped talking and looked up the waitress at once, seemingly rehearsed for this precise cue. Both mouths opened wide as doors, wordless in minor catastrophes. They were in their twenties, and wore wire frame glasses, and were looking forward to sitting together after a movie and talking to one another like the adults they wanted to think they were.

"God fucking damn it" Doug mumbled. His arms blurred trying to cool the burn in his crotch by waving a menu over the seared inseam, looking like he were trying to keep somebody under the table who'd tired of their heaven of pressed wood and gum wads.
"Could you get us some towels, Tina?" asked Karl.

"Tell you what" she said, " my name isn't really Tina it's Cheryl, but I forgot my name tag at home, so I put on this one in back by the time clock, because you have to wear something tat has a name and the restaurant name on it--1'
Cheryl already bad towels in her hand, had piled dishes and removed cups, professional and almost without noise, and spread the towels over the spills and padded the towels and turned them over knowingly, a professional press of the hands
"--so I just decided to where this one, even though there's no one here named Tina, I thought it would be all right for one day, because you know, a waitress without a name tag is probably holding the place up, you know, how are you doing, mister, do you need first aid, are you hurt..."

Doug held up his bands and smiled widely to reveal two rows of teeth, white as an over-painted fence. He shook his head, his attempts at laughter resulting in a snorts and grunts.

'No thanks', he said, half sobbing, gulping hard.
"Could we have our check?" asked the man from the booth next

to them. Cheryl looked around and glanced at the table, the dishes she set there, the ice cream deserts they had ordered. He was dejected, severely bummed out, out of sync with the night as he planned it to happen. All that film analysis they would not get to, it was too early to walk her to her car, oh stir; he thought. The woman was digging through her purse. The chat about the cross- cutting between the grin fire and the hero's dad undergoing heart surgery was so close to epiphany and then Pd touch her hand, and then I woulda asked for the check oh damn it. He sighed, a slow hiss gushing between his teeth, which were as perfect as dullness itself.
"Coming' right up" Cheryl said, "just let me clear that stuff for

"It's alright" the young man said, "just the check, please..."

"Sorry about that, Doug" Karl said," man oh, man, I sorta start talking some stuff here,” I get a little clumsy... glad you're not hurt... ".Now, you were asking me about how one stops drinking, and I was gonna just add that it’s not a matter of stopping, it’s a matter of staying stop, and we in the program say that if you do what’s asked of you, if you work the steps, if you go to meetings, then you can find a way to live a life that's happy joyous and free..."

Doug squirmed in his seat. He glowered at Karl as he shred the paper napkin he used to pat his scorched crotch. Shredded layers of the napkin lay on the table in front of him. His jaw was clenched, and his eyes glistened even more than they had before, but k was not sadness this time.

"First you treat me like I'm a moron, "he began," I mean, I come to tile meeting because I cannot stop drinking and my life is full of shit and tragedy and everything I ever work for is about to go away because I am a drunk, and I listen, and I hear nothing but complaints and whining about nothing at all and I ask you afterwards to talk to me and you tell me to take the cotton out of my ears and in into my mouth because I don't know anything, and you tell me to come to coffee here with you, and you’re going to elaborate on how you stay sober, and I get spilled on and burned and then listen to you jabber on like nothing happened about nothing I can use..."

Doug took the cigarette from his behind his ear Goddamn motherfucker, he thought.
"You sound mad, Doug. Real mad, I think you ought to turn this resentment over to God."

Fuck it, thought Karl, I'm going to fire up right here and blow a flicking goddamn smoke ring where all the assholes can see. Kiss my ass, motherfuckers.
"Anger is not a luxury an alcoholic can afford" he said.

"Ma'am, can we have our check?" the man next to them pleaded with Cheryl, who raced past them. The diner had gotten busy. It was near midnight, and people wanted coffee and a meal before a drive home, to the end of the day.

"Right there, sir" Cheryl said. She had a hand full of menus and was taking people to tables that hadn't even been cleared off yet.

"Our busboy and dishwasher decided to get drunk? On Friday night? Christ."
The night manager rubbed the top of his sweaty bald head and went back to ringing up customers at the register after another waitress told him why there was an unexpected backlog.

'No clean tables, no silverware, no pots and pans, no monkey dishes, nothing... "he rang up a customer, made change for a twenty and thanked the man and the women who'd had their film discourse intervened upon.

"Fuck you" said Doug, "l mean, seriously, fuck you. You are a high and mighty little punk I wouldn't hire you to sweep my sidewalk."

"Well, look you, all high and mighty all of a sudden. You forget you approached me about this. I 'vex been sober ten years...

"I made a mistake, and lam gone away from you..."

Doug stood up and tossed a five dollar bill on the table.

"You are gonna get drunk.” Jack Stuben thought, Christ on a crutch this guy is mad.
"Maybe" said Doug, "maybe..." he turned and walked to the exit, into a thick clutch of customers lined to up to pay their checks, while others huddled, waiting for tables to be cleared.

In front of the restaurant, the young man was holding his date's hand, pausing for a second before he walked to her car in the parking lot where, he hoped, there would be a pause in the light talk, a drift in the lilt of her voice as it trailed off looking for another image to describe a fun evening, where he would lean over and kiss her, touch her lips, put a hand on her shoulder and then lightly, gently, trace the tines of her back, and then walk away, a promise of phone calls on his lips, a skip to his own car, his favorite CD in the player, fresh senses to inspire his bed time. He was about to say something, after staring into her eyes when
"Fucking goddamn asshole, drunken hypocrite jerk, FUCK!!"

The restaurant door blew open with a bang, and Doug stormed out, yelling under his breath, passing the forlorn lovers, arms flying fists balled together, walking up the street to where there was a stretch of bars and liquor stores whose signs lit the night with a smeared amnesia that was as dark as the night could ever be if there were no city to get lost in.

"GODDAMNIT!!" They heard him yell. They stared at him until he turned a comer at the light, and there was nothing but gaudy signs that seared the evening sky like it were black paper. Car horns insults, car horns. Doug was gone, around the comer, and through a door into the bean of something where the sun could not reach.
The couple was still on the comer as Doug vanished around the corner, and looked at each other as the street sounds overwhelmed their awkwardness. They were aware of themselves standing outside the Denny's with all their small talk and smart chatter unheard, only themselves and their breathing.

"Maybe I should walk you to your car" he said.
"Maybe you should" she said, and took his arm.

tamable you should come to my apartment1 she said, puffing him closer after she hooked arm through his, ' I think you should..."
They stopped."I want you to" she said. He smiled at her, and was going to lean over and kiss her before going to her car , anticipating the night and the way it night yet undue itself, when there was a speech, god, he thought, another screaming bum of tires, more screaming, tires hitting the asphalt, car horns and curse words tearing the night apart, rage under hoods delivering what is the fact for intersections and neighborhoods where the century stopped two decades ago, he caught the screech and the words before he could plant the kiss and the suggestion of how, maybe, perhaps, please god, that the rest of the night would go, he held her close, he heard the squeal of the wheels, the words


A Chevy, a car frill of guys, a beer can flying from the back seat,
a siren, a chase maybe, more lights and car horns and signs for booze and strip
tease, she pulls back from her date.
"Can we just go?"

The night manager had his sleeves rolled up and a plastic apron on, pushing another tray of dishes and silverware into the washing machine. His glasses were steamed up. The dishwasher and the busboy were out by the trash bin, and he could hear them swearing in words he'd never heard in Spanish before. Next the pots, then the pans, and then the rush from midnight until three, when the bars start to empty and there is never enough monkey dishes or water glasses and all the forks from the last load through the machine are caked with egg yoke. He pulled a hose coming from the top of the dish washing machine, and aimed it at dish rack he just filled with plates to be run through. He pulled down on the handle, and jets hot water shot forth, pelting the caked food from the plates, filled the station full of steam. The night manager let the hose shoot water For some reason the steam, the billowing vapors that
surrounded him, felt pleasant as it soaked into his clothes and warmed his skin. He couldn't explain why even to himself It just felt good.

Karl put the five dollar bill in his shirt pocket after folding into an origami of his own invention. Fuck it, he thought. Sober ten years for what. Ungrateful newcomer. Christ He stood and walked to the cashier stand by the front door, walked sideways between opposing camps waiting to pay and waiting to be seated. His check was still on the table.

"That dirty dog" said Cheryl, coming to clear the table and finding the unpaid check. Not even a dollar tip, cheap asshole. A man's voice intruded. "Excuse me) Tina, but could we get some water here?"

She turned and saw another couple seated at the adjacent booth, a man and a woman, in their forties. Cheryl smiled. Nice hungry people who have to be set right in their manner of ordering meals at one of her stations.

She tapped her name tag. "Tell you what'1 she said, "my name isn't really Tina, but I forgot my own name tag when I came to work today---"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Buy me a bottom

David Kramer, a lasped drinker from the sound of things, writes nostalgicly of what he misses about getting tanked in bars, the practice of "buybacks", bartenders and patrons buying drinks for one another. He recalls it fondly and I read his column, shall we say, with interest. Mostly it reminded me of why I haven't had a drink in over twenty years.The thing I used to miss about drinking more than anything was the nearly erotic flush I felt course through my body after I finished the first drink, usually imbibed in loud, glottal gulps; the stressed nervous system would seem to relax, to let out a sigh and where ever I was seemed the most perfect place in the world. Often enough such occasions took place in alleys or alone in my apartment with all the shades drawn, since I drank for twenty years and the end of my drinking life came a dreary and depressed and repetitive scenario of tanking until I would pass out in my own easy chair, my shower, my kitchen; I couldn't manage my affairs in the taverns where everyone knew my name.

But if I happened to be seated at the end of the bar, near the bartender's well, it was a more perfect union between myself and the cosmos, or at least the contents of whatever ale house I landed in--the people were brilliant, the interiors showed discriminating tastes, anything that was said or done in the space of the twenty minutes to an hour my good mood lasted was nearly always extraordinary and inspired the most sublime ideas on my part. I loved where I was, and so did the other regulars who happened by those particular afternoons, late nights and early mornings when the bars could legally open--when the booze worked for us, we'd share our resources and buy each other drinks in the spirit of mounting an attack on the negative energy that cursed and tainted the world outside the front door. Sooner or later, though, the good mood faded, the good willed shriveled into rapidly encroaching resentments, bitterness nuanced our witticisms, our rapid succession of brilliant ideas soon became slurred, incoherent speech. People just got uglier, and I had no sense of time, to paraphrase Dylan, who nailed the recurring situation.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Notes on a poem for 2 upcoming anniversaries

I am under a month away from two special occasions, a birthday when I will be six years past the half century mark, and the day after that, on which I will have twenty one years sobriety. Thank you, thank you. The goal today is not to die or take a drink before the crucial days in July; in any event, I've already been to rehab, at the Betty Ford Center in fact, in Rancho Mirage, California, in the Palm Springs area. What I love the facts of my sobriety date is that I can honestly say that "I went to the desert to dry out in town called Rancho Mirage", amusing myself with the low irony of mashing the cliche of alkies "drying out", the desert being the driest clime one might choose to live in, and that the town name summarized what I felt July 16, 1987, the day after my thirty fifth birthday, the feeling that what was happening to me was unreal, unprecedented, consciousness expanding,in its own way. What I knew at the time was that I couldn't stop drinking nor stop the wreckage my worst habit created, and that the first night in treatment was also the first time in a decade that my head hit a pillow without having a pint of vodka to ease my into rough slumber. Anyway, all this musing over what it was like , what happened and what it's like now through the last week prompted this poem tonight; I've also been reading Berrigan, O'Hara and Padgett lately, some of each shows up here. At the near age of fifty six and with nearly twenty one years sober, I trust something of my own style seeps through the influence.

it means go, brother

as it goes
this year
this month

i am 3 sheets shy
of a coastline to
walk upon

just coasting
on old bed frames
anticipating Spring

and Summer
close behind
another year older

in every cents of the word

5 years past the half dollar mark
20 and change since
a drink or the handcuffs
that came with them

i go to work
i pay my bills
no one crosses the street
or leave their tables in diners
and cafes where
the gossip
is about celebrities
and not what i did
or didn't do
on last decade
this month

it's all money no one sees
axis that keeps the spheres on their paths
though one cannot
see a cog or gear
for all the lavish metaphors

sometimes it's enough
to lay on the mattress
and stare at the ceiling
after i tire of visiting my problems

you call me
you call me
the phone rings and it's you

talking the same old lines of how-do-you -do

did you read those
books i lent you?

it's 3 clean sheets
that hang on the line,
the same phone number
for 10 years since moving day

it rained last night
a mist wraps around the homes on the hill
beautiful traffic rushes forth
through the fog and green lights,

it means go, brother, go!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Gibson Drinks,I Don't

Mel Gibson Hits The Bar In Costa Rica
Tonight I celebrated twenty years of continuous sobriety, and it's instructive to see that photo of Gibson, fortified with copious amounts of goon juice, smirking like the clueless nitwit who'd drank again to silence the noise that's clamoring between his ears. Gibson is an artist and all that claptrap, but no one really buys that it is a condition we must accept and tolerate if we're to see him continue making films. The mad artist who is so sensitive to life's crushing awfulness that he or she has to drink and take drugs just to stay alive and reach the soulful part of themselves is a romantic crock fans and some critics have used to excuse the drunk, slovenly assholism of Kerouac, Bukowski and a slew of other sloshed scribes, a generational habit of mind that was enabling in two distinctive ways; it made the artist feel that they had to drink, that it was their responsibility to drink in order to stay true to their art and audience, and it give a perfect escape for the audience from confronting the blunt fact that alcoholics , when they drink, are jerks, assholes, reprobates, completely unpleasant people when they part take of hooch. Gibson, of course, is a disturbing personality and artist whose continuous stream of good reviews has more to with financial matters than with merit, and he's someone given to some problematic religious beliefs that can't help but get him into controversy. The actor/director might well be a creep sans alcohol, but it must be said that having it in his system brings that character trait to full volume. This is why it's instructive for me to see his smirking drunkenness this night of a landmark anniversary, as I have several photographs of myself with that same graceless grin, that same
look that makes one appear that they're being propped up, lest one's face wind up in the chips and guacamole. And lest I take too much credit for the felt miracle of my sobriety, I can see that face and that bottle can be mine again anytime. posted 07/17/2007 at 01:31:41

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cocktail Jazz

A true story of what this life used to be like.-tb ____________________________________________

 " Fuck me, I want to play " said Spank. He sat straight up in his seat and rattled a finger tip drum solo on the small table where he sat, in dark cocktail lounge on a cul-de-sac near the down town airport. He and his friend Slake were in the rear, and as Spank stared toward the front of the room, he could barely make out the musicians on the bandstand, a sax, piano, drums, and bass combo who were blurred by the hard, red burn of the lone stage light and the thick curtain of cigarette smoke that hung in the air like frayed curtains. But even with his vision obscured by gleam and gauze, Spank could see that the hand members were engaged in a mission that obliterated the reality of the dive bar whose leather cushion booths had been slashed with knives, spoons, or forks and had been mended with seeming miles of grey duck- tape, whose patrons were naught but arms holding drinks latched to torsos whose faces and gray, withered lips sought the &anonymity~ of the darkness above the scant glows of the lounges discreet, lighting that revealed traces of a once gay-colored carpet that bared witness to years of endless trips to the restrooms, empty tables covered with smeared glasses where thousands of memories had been forgotten and recalled again, and particles of dust floating unfettered, swirling streams that made the room seem positively air tight. Spank was still tapping his finger against the table, bobbing his head, squinting to see the combo as it rumbled on. The blues they'd been playing, slow and churning, had been going on for what seemed like the longest traffic light Spank had ever sat for, but the musicians kicked up the tempo. Hand over hand, the drummer slammed his Sticks on the skins hard, like someone banging on a locked door, the bassist accelerated the blood pulse, and the pianist and sax player played a: twisted melody in frantic unison, a race to the last bar. Spank thought he cold feel a breeze in the room. Something seemed to disturb the curtain of listless smoke. He took a wobbling glance at Slake, who was reclined against his chair, taking a slug from his long neck Bud. He looked back to the bandstand. The sax player was in the center of the platform, completely still as though bolted in position except for the streaking commotion of his fingers over the keys. A deluge of notes filled the room, every honk and squeak a cry of escape, a gasp for breath, a memory of fresh air. " Oh God, Slake " he said, leaning over the table, " This is it, man. These guys have struck the lode..." Spank paused and wrapped his hand around his Scotch rocks. " .. .This what we've looking for all afternoon. I wanna play... " He put his glass to his lips for a swig, but all he could taste were the slivers of melting ice that dissolved instantly on his tongue. " Where's our waitress " he demanded. Slake put his bottle on the table. " Can't say where she went " he offered, his gaze divided the bandstand into shimmering half frames that danced with each other. the bandstand and Spank, who's tapping had become arrhythmic and fidgety, " But that shouldn't matter too much now, Spank, you're about two and half sheets right now, and any more would just ruin a good buzz. " Spanks' finger stopped tapping, and his hand unfurled in the, inches from Slakes' chin, as though asking for loose change. " C'mon, Slake " he said, his voice a whine, " just when the getting' good. We've been looking for some music, some seen like this... " Slake rubbed his chin and watched the path of his friends' hand as he moved it away from his face and made a slow, sweeping gesture to indicate the lounge, the " It " he was signifying. Slake laughed. " Tell you, buddy, we've been driving since one this afternoon and we've been to six bars- all over the place, from La Jolla and into the Valley, and now we're here near the airport, on a dead end street in a dump where A.A. should have a recruiting table, and you're telling that this is the place? Slake was still smiling and looked about the room and could see details Spanks' hazed vision couldn't: six drinkers, all men, sitting at the bar whose once rich mahogany had had-- its grain insulted with many smothering of varnish, faded and ripped travel posters hung on the walls with a Sixties Pan Am jet flying over the Taj Mahal, Big Ben and Diamond Head, the bandstand where the combo played looking pathetic and rickety, -covered with an--- - incomprehensible variety of carpet samples fused together with duck tape probably snipped from the same all purpose roll, the musician~ themselves very old in a loud polyester ensembles ; shirts and flared golf pants, hunkering over their instruments, looking not at all transfixed by the spell of the music they played, but tired, with their concentration fading. The combo closed the number in irregular jumps and starts; somewhere in the upped ante of tempo they'd lost the thread of the instrumental dialogue. They spoke in tongues they couldn't find the words for the , sounds of the body beating its limbic memory against the keys and the animal skins, seeking passion, heat, fire in a cave. Sour notes, clashing pitches. Spanks' hand dropped to its side, and then his arm fell toward the floor. He felt dizzy. " Fuck me" he said, "I wanna play ." " You can find someone else to fuck you, pal, but I will say this: two- for- one specials will make you pay the cost for being the boss in half the time ." Slake looked at his watch. " Ready to go? " he asked. Spank was seeing Slake in double vision, and was ready to admit defeat when what he'd been doing all afternoon caught up with him. Slakes' smile shrank when he saw his friends' Cheeks swelled to the size of water balloons. Then he saw a jet stream of lumpy puke burst from Spanks' mouth. Slake had the sensation of being stricken with a small fire hose. The saxophonist was wiping down his keys with a dirty rag when he looked across the room to see what the commotion was. He saw one guy standing up, dripping with puke, trying to get rid of the stuff with desperate snaps of his arms, yelling "You fuck face, you goddamned alike, I can't take you anywhere" while his buddy was face down on the table, nose in the wretch, moaning in a way that begged for a bullet. The saxophonist perched his instrument in the stand and nudged the pianist, who was yawning and cracking his knuckles one by one and savoring the snap each joint made. "Who are those two? " he asked, "never seen those two before." The saxophonist gave a laugh that was brisk and snorting, contemptuous. " More tourists " he said, , shoving his hands into his pocket," and its a good bet one of them just had a religious experience. .."