To Dorothy Parker and The Drink
I guarantee when most us think of famous writers and booze, we immediately call to mind the likes of Hemingway, Faulkner and Bukowski. Hemingway staring out at the sea, slamming a glass of whiskey on his desk. There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. Faulkner sipping mint juleps from his favorite metal cup, swishing it in his mouth through one cerebral musing after the next. I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it. Bukowski sitting on the edge of an unmade bed, chain smoking and drinking bourbon straight from the bottle. I do all my writing when I’m drunk. All the time I type I’m drunk.
It's a rarity that I speak to a male writer who doesn't also list one of these men as an inspiration. Feel free to swap out Philip Roth or Henry Miller and so on and so forth, as the cup overfloweth when it comes to mysoginist authors who have some notable experience with or kinship to liquor of all kinds. Now, this is not to say that you cannot learn valuable lessons about both writing and life from these men while at the same time recognizing that some of their work - whether only in part or in its entirety - is chauvinist drivel. If through time travel or otherwise I was given the opportunity to speak to one of them, I would first happily pick his brain about process and then just as he is expecting a compliment to conclude our spirited discussion, I'd lay a quick punch into his face and run, laughing all the way home.
As for their own glamorizing of and/or fascination with alcohol, this must be a similarly nuanced conversation. People often think that alchohol fuels creativity by relaxing the mind so it may open wider, or that it heightens emotion, thus allowing for a bloodletting on the page that Hemingway could be proud of. But I wager that it is less so the alcohol and more so the tragedy or mental illness or insecurity or anger (and the list goes on) that causes them to reach for it that truly fuels these writers, and what makes their work sing. Can you be a writer without pain? Without being a little mad in some way? Surely. But will that writing speak viscerally to the reader? Of that I'm not so certain.
As I myself drink and read, I have a particularly visceral reaction - one of rage - that becomes quite palpable when revisiting excerpts from the aforementioned writers famous works. Some write of alter-ego-type characters commiting an array of heinous acts - the most grotesque of which is often to rape women quite casually, without regard to age or mental capacity. While simply Googling any of their names in conjunction with various derogatory terms for women and/or their body parts produces a breathtaking plethora of results. You can forgive a young cunt anything. A young cunt doesn't have to have brains. They're better without brains. But an old cunt, even if she's brilliant, even if she's the most charming woman in the world, nothing makes any difference. A young cunt is an investment; an old cunt is a dead loss. All they can do for you is buy you things. But that doesn't put meat on their arms or juice between their legs.
At the same time, as I read them, I'm also driven to raucous laughter. They recount with incredulousness women who don't succumb to their charms, while quietly footnoting that they happened to be covered in their own vomit at the time of the encounter. The absurdity of these shrinking men shouting their machismo on every page as if somehow writing it down will make it true sends me into fits of cackling like the witch I am as I sit at my desk drinking tea from a black mug donning the words"Male Tears".
I hope the next time you think about alcohol and writers, you think of someone new. Someone arguably more worthy of your attention. Tonight, I've decided to drink to Dorothy Parker, who unlike her male compatriots, didn't self-mythologize in her writing while under the influence. I'm not a writer with a drinking problem, I'm a drinker with a writing problem. Instead, she makes the reader laugh with her lethal wit and biting insight into herself and others. Her work explored all the things that mattered - race, violence and inequality - giving you a window into the social activist she was off the page. When she died, having no one, she left her entire estate to Martin Luther King, Jr. and suggested that her epitaph read, Excuse my dust.
A Teetotaller’s Lament
From a young age, I have been in love with life.
From the chirruping birds of the morning to the singing cicadas at dusk, each day is filled with wonder and awe. This could be the day I meet The One. Now could be the time my stars align. Who’s to say that today is not the day I find my way?
Yes, life is filled with such joy and potential, how could one not be drunk on the experience?
But as an old man, facing the inevitable undiscovered country, I look back and see so many wasted opportunities, so many empty days.
The times I should have said, ‘I love you.’ The lost embrace which was never shared. A stoic expression which could have been replaced by a smile.
Unlike Frank, I have many regrets, all of them of things which I did not do. That is a sobering thought.
i wake up. there is a thick layer of glass on my skin. like a hollow seashell. like a bubble in the shape of riverbeds. like a leather jacket.
the end of dark tunnels lead to places i recognize. this one leads to the school hallway. i remember my locker passcode but the lock turns into a chain.
i remember the passcode because it is your birthday.
i know this hallway. it’s the one you walk through every friday at 1:15 in the afternoon. the same high heels echo the hallway. when i think about your heels my thigh burns. i wonder if i am merely an echo too.
for a moment i’m convinced that the numbers 115 mean something. but they only tell time. they don’t tell me anything.
i enter the classroom with a broken clock. time only exists as blue currents your eyes.
glass tightens around me.
the air vibrates into a bell. they sound like waves crashing shore.
i look down at my wristwatch. like i always do. because i don’t believe in bells. i always think that someday sooner or later they’ll be wrong. i find that i am not wearing a watch. so i look at my wrist instead.
there are scratches. they are linear like how time is supposed to be. they are the color of your lipstick stains. i am trying to remember the serial number on your maroon tube of lipstick.
the scratches don’t disappear. i remember a blade running through me and your fingertips tracing down my spine.
i do not know where i am. so i fall to darkness.
i wake up again from glass tightening around my skin. i think this is a punishment. because i had wanted you. because it shouldn’t hurt this much if this wasn’t to punish me.
i follow the dark tunnel. it is longer than i remembered. my memory is off. i push down the door handle and the door opens for me. i learned this the last time i was here.
the handle is rusted. but it does not stain my hands through the layer of glass.
i do not remember why i am here, nor how to leave. maybe i don’t want to leave.
i am in the classroom. there are 5 rows and 6 columns of tables. i know this because i have been here for three years. i know where i sit. it is in the corner, the one furthest to you.
in my head there are seashells made of porcelain.
i remember things.
the bell rings again in the same vibrations as last time. like a wave rippling through a calm surface.
i am beginning to think that it would end the same way. i hope it doesn’t. i hope it never ends.
the door opens.
for a moment i think it is you.
a mannequin enters the room. i am not afraid of the dead face. i am only scared that i have lost you forever.
i stand up in the seat. the ground gives away underneath me and it feels like stepping into the ocean.
i am still alive, floating in air.
i wish i had known how to float. i could’ve been alive. but the past is dead.
someone shows me the way out of the classroom. beach pebbles scatter the hallway floor. i am still floating.
once the door closes behind me i fall back to the ground. there is still glass underneath my feet but i cannot feel it. someone shows me a new hallway i have never seen and i think it is strange. i have been here for three years.
they lead me to a white room. there are no clocks here. the walls are lined with cabinets. one of them is empty. there is something covered in white sheets on a white table.
i recognize the outline but i pretend i don’t. i lift the sheets and it is not you. your skin is sewn on a dead body. i wish that was me. your face is pale blue. it is your favorite color. the color of clear waves and foamy tides. i do not question why i know that.
they tell me you are gone. i don’t believe them. you’re still here. in wisps of perfume stinging my lips. in the ghostly fingertips that trail across my cheek.
i am not afraid.
my fingertips slit through your skin. it is liquid. it holds shape in the starlight of my dreams. i think about drowning in your cold beauty.
there is a dagger on the table. a rose is tangled on the handle.
i think about doing it but i am afraid. there is something familiar in the air. it is thick with salt, as if i was in front of an ocean. i am afraid.
so i swallow the blade instead, handle and all.
i wake up in darkness again. i cannot bear it. i am losing you. i am losing me. but i know neither of these people. the water’s edge lifts up high. it is going to crash down any time.
i am running in dark tunnels. i am feeling. i am remembering.
i run into the lockers. but i do it on purpose. a crack forms in the glass. i smile. but i am not happy. i do not know why i am smiling. i throw myself against the lockers. again and again. like rumble fish.
the glass shatters. i fall to the ground. there are numbers that i recognize on the metal lockpiece. the classroom clock starts ticking. but it is too late.
it takes me a moment to process what is happening.
i am lying on the floor and you are on me, more beautiful that i remembered. your knees are bruising my hip. i recognize your perfume. it is suffocating me like your painted nails that i have once mistaken as rose thorns. your hands digging into my stomach. you are wearing a leather jacket. splatters come off really easily on that surface. i remember now. you and your metal chains.
your breath is rushed and uneven. you are sitting on my thigh. your heels press into my skin, kissing scars on to me. rose vines lift up the hem of my school uniform. my skin has been replaced by bruises of every color. i have been here one too many times. i like the scent of your perfume because it reminds me of heaven. you lean forward and i think of nothing. i think of nothing because my everything is next to me.
the tips of your hair are red. i do not understand. your favorite color is pale blue.
there is a dagger in your right hand and a chained locket in your left. you crush the metal with the fingertips that once held me hostage. i am starting to remember. but i am afraid of the past.
i have died in the past.
there is blood on the dagger. from the tip all the way to where the handle began. it is all red. i am confused. your favorite color is pale blue.
there is a cut on my chest. it is as deep as the dagger’s blade is long.
i think i understand, and i am very, very afraid.
it was never an ocean. i remember the white porcelain and the seashells embedded in bathroom tiles and how i dyed them red. i remember the tipped-over bottle and pills on the floor like pebbles. i remember drowning myself in the bathtub, lungs expanded and burst and soapy water spilling into veins on the night you sent me to exile. i remember wanting to be painted your favorite color.
i like sunsets because they look like the bruises in my neck. i remember leather jackets from when the gold-lined zipper cut through me and your nails blooming roses on my skin wherever you touched. i remember the kisses of you stilettos heels tearing me open and how the heart-shaped locket necklace tightening around my neck was nothing but metal chains.
i never fixed the classroom clock because i had wish it would never enter the time when i had to break myself in front of you to know who i am.
but it is too late.
i am not myself anymore. you cannot hurt me.
the dagger rips another petal-shaped scar on my chest. and another and another.
i am from darkness. you made me stay because you need the color you now draw from my body to paint your narrative.
you knew that i was alive. you and your acrylic nails, your high heels, your cold chains, and your leather jacket. i remember.
i remember the nights i begged you to be careful cutting yourself on my broken shards with a mouth full of blood. i remember how i’d rip open my own skin for it to be soft enough not to hurt your blades. i remember the stars in your eyes when you scratched your name into every chamber of my heart.
patterns of red splatters across the sleeve of your jacket.
and we do it all over again.
Memories are like a box of frozen hamburgers waiting to be purchased in the grocery store.
Once upon a time a single hamburger lived in the body of a whole cow. An innocent cow grazed free until it was slaughtered by a butcher who did his job by separating the portions of flesh to be ground up, formed, packaged, put on ice and shipped out to the market.
An unsuspecting shopper walked into the grocery store with a list; onions, oatmeal, green olives, and toilet paper. No where on the list was written anything to do with the word hamburger; perhaps the shopper was a vegetarian; there was that possibility; if so a frozen hamburger patty should be the last thing considered. But something had mysteriously drawn the shopper over to the frozen food isle. Perhaps it was the affixed sign hand printed by the grocer in red magic marker advertising something as buy one get one free or perhaps it was as simple as the overhead fluorescent light reflecting off the glass case.
Singularly focused, the shopper did not stop to question the sudden insatiable craving to reach into the cold depths, opening up the square package of circular patties, bearing down on a piece of raw suspended meat with a complete lack of regard for the consequences; impelled to remember what should have been forsaken.
The Internet: A Rant.
Did you know that if you go for an extended period of time on less than six hours of sleep per night, you reach a point where your mind is functioning at a state equivalent to intoxication? In other words, you’re basically going about your day and driving your car around other people while border-line drunk.
I read that somewhere, and goodness knows if it’s really true or not. Seriously, you read so many random facts on the internet that sound like gospel truth but that just as easily could’ve erupted from the inebriated, half-conscious brain of a college dropout. (What? No, that is absolutely not representative of myself.)
I mean, how do you really know what’s fake or genuine information anymore? The fact is, the internet has become a craptastic melting pot of brain vomit (excuse the graphic language) that anyone and their pet capuchin monkey can add to if they want. Let that percolate in your mind for a hot second.
For example, did you know that anyone can contribute to Wikipedia? (And that’s a real fact. Like, for real.) I mean, the online encyclopedia that is basically the worldwide conglomeration of all the knowledge of all time that high school and college students are now going to for research (even though they’re usually forbidden to cite it) is open and editable to anyone in the world. Wikipedia itself says in its contribution rules, “Just about anyone can edit almost any article at any given time, even without logging in.”
Okay, sure, it hopefully will be reviewed and/or improved by someone else who supposedly has like at least one degree after their name (or the experiential equivalent), and Wikipedia says they require that the information given in articles be verifiable in reliable sources, but does anyone actually confirm whether that is taking place? If that were true, why are there Wiki entries out there that say something to the effect of, “This article may have false or unverified information. Please feel free to edit and improve it if you know what the heck you’re doing. Not that we’re going to vet you first or anything, ’cause, you know, we trust you.”
Like, is that even legal? Apparently so, but then again, child marriage is still legal in most US states (FYI, I did not get that fact from Wikipedia). So, yeah...
Another Wiki info section reads, ”...Wikipedia can be edited by anyone at any moment. Although when an error is recognized, it is usually fixed. However, because Wikipedia cannot monitor thousands of edits made every day, some of those edits could contain vandalism or could be simply wrong and left unnoticed for days, weeks, months, or even years.” (emphasis added)
Wow. Well, there’s your answer. And I find that mildly disturbing. For the record, I love browsing the gold mine (or is it a land mine?) of information on Wikipedia as much as the next person, but it sort of shatters my little secure bubble in which I’d like to have complete faith that what I’m reading is actual fact. I know, how often is that actually the case? It should probably be a rule of thumb to take everything you read online with a grain or two of salt.
I suppose the point of an online encyclopedia is so that many people from all walks and fields can come together and contribute their personal experience and knowledge to a searchable database—which is a fantastic thing, believe me—but that also leaves the door open for michievous teenagers and well-intentioned individuals who actually don’t know what they’re talking about and/or are just copying and pasting from other unverified sources.
These days, anyone can start a blog or social media account or news reporting site and get it to look all legit and professional, and all the poor unsuspecting grannies and the countless gullible people frequenting the cyberworld will never be any the wiser. Am I one of those people? Sure, I probably have been a victim (perhaps even a perpetrator) of disinformation at some time during my years of journeying through the worldwide web. That’s why it’s so critical to be sure of your source before you disseminate information. Which is often difficult to verify.
You know the phrase, I’m going to google that? “Definition: Google: verb. to look something up on the Google.com search engine.” Did I google that definition? Of course not. I just looked it up in my own impressive vault of mental information. Which you can place complete and total faith in, because my brain is patently infallible. (See what I did there?) But anyway, what I’m getting at is that anyone can “google” anything and Google will assure them that they are accessing the latest and most accurate stream of information available. But is it really? That’s the immortal question. Because Google also warns us of falling for the lure of fake news, evidently going so far as to censor what they believe is false or harmful information. But who knows what is really fake news and what is not? You’ll encounter wildly differing views and finger pointing from both sides. Who to believe? I guess that’s another question for the experts.
All this is not to say that there has never been false or fake information at large in the world pre-internet. Talk to the snake oil salesmen and the flat-earthers and the challengers of Copernicus’s heliocentric solar system. I guess it’s always gonna be a problem, but it seems we have it acutely worse in the Internet age. Information is so dang available now—literally at our fingertips.
So maybe there’s a reason it’s called the worldwide web. The Internet. The name basically implies a tangled mess of interconnected threads that are nearly impossible to track all the way to their sources. It’s a fitting label.
I guess there’s also a reason why Twitter/IG handles now have the little verified check mark next to them. Without it, anyone can pretend to be someone they’re not and perpetuate false information in the name of that person. And the world of cyber security...I hear that’s a job market ripe for the picking.
Mis/disinformation and data/identity fraud. Talk about first-world issues. Have we really advanced and evolved as a race? Well, maybe in some ways. In others, we’ve just figured out how to upgrade the wheel from a crude wooden one that’s not even a perfect circle into a high performance tire with custom chrome rims. Meh, whatever. It’s still a wheel.
Is there a point to all of this? I’m not sure yet. Please tell me if you find one and I will be immensely grateful to you.
Disclaimer: For the record, I was perfectly sober while writing the above post. But I may or may not have gotten less than six hours of sleep a night in the recent past; therefore, I cannot be held responsible for the accuracy or lack thereof of certain statements made herein. For your own sake, I advise you not to quote me on anything I have stated here unless it is verified by at least three experts.
One More To Get Me Through This
Pee pull say I dink two muck. Eye say eye dought'nt drink enuf. Won more dink and Eye will have my bookie fin eshed. It's a mater peace. Eye no ewe'll lyke it.
Eight hours later ...
People say I drink too much. I say I don't drink enough. One more drink and I will have my book finished. It's a masterpiece. I know you'll like it.
There, that's much better.
Twenty minutes later ...
Wheye em eye hav in such a problimb fin ishing the lash chipper? Eye donut unner stant it.
Eight hours later ...
Why am I having such a problem finishing the last chapter. I don't understand it.
Maybe I need to change what I've been drinking.
Twenty minutes later ...
Dammet!! I'm out of bear and Malox! What well eye drink now?
Eye will ed it this lay tear.
This will sure be interesting
Note the bottles on the shelf
To share this grand confession
With everybody else
I like to have a drink or two
Don’t blame me, I must defend
For I was raised this way
I have a happy family
They just enjoy the booze
In a game of UNO
We’re all sure to lose
Everyone was laughing
It sure was a good time
The glasses, they were clinking
There was apple juice in mine
I’m sure that I will pay for
A life of daily drinking
I need to take care of myself
My higher self is thinking
I do not encourage
Drinking to excess
I’ve done it once or twice before
And boy, I was a mess
But I just like a beer or two
To finish out the day
I won’t wait to edit this
There’s nothing more to say
God can see
Drinking is a kind of lubricant. When I was twenty-three, I slid down highway one trying to pass a semi and lost control of my car. In fourth grade, my teacher marked down my essay for starting every sentence with “I”.
I handed over my driver’s license after saying my prayers over the steering wheel, skidding off the highway and into grass by the grace of God. I just started two sentences like I told my teacher I wouldn’t. I started drinking after college. The road ahead is dangerous and my language drives automatic.
When I handed over my driver’s license to my psychiatrist, I did that motion, the one where you snap it between your thumb and forefinger, like it’s the ace of spades and you have a winning hand. God can see what you’ve been dealt and laughs. Jail doesn’t look good when fourth grade was only just over a decade ago. I wonder if I’ve been marked down again.
Psychiatrists make for the best teachers; they are every one of us with naturally lubricated brains and a God complex. When my car brakes stopped working I somehow knew that I was SOL, an unsavory acronym that slides out when you are uninhibited and preparing to crash. You have been been summoned by God and now you will meet concrete and metal and smoke. Smoking is a social lubricant. It pumps the brakes, makes for good stories. It doesn’t always hurt people, but sometimes it does.
When my car coasted off the highway, the driver in the semi didn’t even so much as beep at me. My steering wheel shuddered and I did that motion with my hands, the one where you press them together and look skywards towards heaven.
I had the ace of spades. I was still here; I was still “I”.
It’s the Bottle’s Fault
*after drinking more than enough whiskey*
“Ah, yesh. Lesh sit back an enjoy the resht of this whiskey wis a shtory. Thonight, we, yesh, you and I, my dear writer’s shide, thonight, we are going to write a short shtory of pure awesomeness! Get se pen and paper, get se computer, get se whisk-...where’s the whiskey?
Ah, there it ish!”
*takes a swig*
“Ah...now let’sh go, pardner!” *hiccups* “Excuse moi! How am I supposhe to help a bottle of whiskey reacts sho negatively with me?”
It so happene one da that there was a mman of ill reput who made a living if questionale...reptue? *gulps down another mouthful, fingers returning to slowly crawl across the keys*
Tis ma maid a livon of...hundeng alians ad heee *hiccups*
H fite te gut figt wit, wit *blinking vigorously* lazers of Dart Fade ’s Jedy. He fit wih. 4. He fight aongsite 4 an Trixie annt olll thos oter *gulps down the last glass of whiskey*
safd le gl ih thyn tooooo spppppppppppparjakglhdaguhouaefajif;agiodahgadgdagjnnnnnvk
*The following morning*
“What the hell is this?!! This is junk! Rubbish! Vanessa!!! VANESSA!!!”
“What is it, dear?” She asks with a sigh.
“Did you allow the cat in my study again?”
“No...But you allowed the whiskey in again...Maybe you should question the bottle first?”
“Are you being sarcastic now?”
“I would never.” *leaving the room again* “How about you just try and edit all of that?”
“It will never work! This is rubbish! I need to start over!”
“Again...” She sighs to herself.
A Shanty For Rosy-cheeked Prosers.
Got a case of the dreadable sobers,
A battle no spirit can win.
I tried to get drunk for this challenge...
(I’m currently 4 whiskeys in.)
But I’ve got the dreadable sobers,
A prattle no spirit can grin.
No need here to edit silk-robers,
I’m hitting pub-lish in a min.
Oh yes I’ve got the dreadable sobers...
Note my linguistical spin!