“It is just a beverage after all”

   (For Laurie and Heather and of course Jon Hamm)

 

 

Every occasion in America is a drinking holiday.  I don’t drink, six years now.   So my response;  “I’ll pass thank you. ” That is all I say.  I do attend the party, yes.  Often if you don’t drink, and they know, well you don’t get an invite- so first, don’t take it personally.

The other parties,  unless I feel it’s a bad idea; PMS or my dog pooped in my shoe that day, or  Grandma died, what have you- sometimes you just skip it.  Office Happy Hours, birthdays, baptisims, so many occasions sometimes I pretend to toast at the wedding, but I don’t drink it-I use water.   Yes there are a lot of Champagne occasions in American Culture, my Sicilian and Irish make my thirst especially great for wine or beer; cocktails meh, who cares but, I can do it so….SO can you.

How do you know?   Oh trust me anyone who has a problem with alcohol- they know.  They just have to stop denying that they know; meet face with the bottle.  In fact, they knew long ago, and yes I suspected it long ago myself, at like 21.

How do you even enjoy a party, a holiday, a wedding?   HOW!!!!

There is still music? Maybe dancing, there is the old fashioned art of the conversation?  Observe like a reporter just drink in the occasion not the booze, that is how. If it isn’t fun sober, well then you leave!

What if you are tempted, ya know -to drink they ask.   We just think of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and that woman who yells in conversation when she drinks and makes an ass of herself, or picture the YOU you aspire to be and go there.   The final image, the Bugs Bunny episode where he drinks  poison and freaks out.

If a party atmosphere is like stale bread-and you KNOW cause you are tuned in completely; you get to bow out.  Cause not drinking is all about doing what is good for you, not others, yeah true.   It demands Always having an exit plan. “I have to go feed my neighbor’s  Schnauzer while she is Bali.”  Or  I am harvesting a new crop of crossed Daisy Poinsettia’s and they thrive when I sing to them-I gotta go.”

Quite frankly and we get to be frank now cause after all, we are sober,  the cold nips at me too and begs for that vision of holiday cheer ,the hot toddy or the Mexican hot cocoa with schnapps but  repeat this if you wane in your worth   “should I drink something that makes me want to be here, or should I just leave?”

No quick warming concoction in a glass, catching the light, it’s cherry bobbing just so in the delicate birth of fine crystal that is martini ware is worth it.  Yes-it is unarguably sexy  to sip;  but is it worth sleeping with THAT guy or not being able to  to find your car the next day or having your mouth form the words  “l  NEVER would have but I was SO drunk.”    Even with that sugared rim, tomorrow you will not feel so sparkly.  When the thought comes to me, when I think of my wine research expertise and forget the ugly, I un-hunch my shoulders and I pause to listen to my heart beating and my blood coursing and I honor what is real for me.  Another tray, another waiter….I’ll pass thank you, I say again with more confidence.

I hear it asked every year.  I hear it asked all year.   It’s even asked without words.     Your faces say it all, like a bad deodorant commercial, “what is your secret?”   I hear the silent pleading as the tray passes by my nose at the Artic Room, or the Cloud Room, Top of the Towers, backstage;  wherever there is swanky, cuush, gently worn velvet furniture and a marble table with bowl of fruit next to it that begs to be painted.

Don Draper does motivate me too.   In my daydream, as he saunters over from the blazing oversized fireplace and says, “what are you doing later? “  Or “mine is organic Gingerale with lime and spritzer, what’s yours?”   “No bitters I say and NO non-alcoholic beer “–yes we laugh simultaneously, they are  off the table, we nod.  Then someone visibly slurring clomps with the grace of an Irish setter over to us “ HOUUW , how do we do it?   I look at her “We have arrived at the mystery of faith”  I tell her. HUH?   She says.  “faith is being content with the mystery.”  Have you heard that this week, I have heard that quote three times this week.    I turn to Don, “Who said that anyway? “

SO in review how does one stomach being an alcoholic at Christmas time?  We practice acceptance of others impressions,  we accept that our vision of us has to be better than theirs.      We let go of the haunting scarlet letter A that goes along with it.  We practice the word – in front of the mirror while smiling.  At first we welcome the bountiful tears.  Hi, I am (Insert Name) or Lisa, or Steve or Roman, and we say it aloud “I am an alcoholic.  But dear god, that is just the agreement.  The agreement not to fight ourselves and the horrors and first deaths and last loves.  Then we inspect it like courtroom attorneys layer upon layer,  detail upon detail, upside down, kitty corner, aerial view,   from the eyes of others, we inspect it like a corpse in an autopsy and we find one good thing.  It is just a beverage after all?

Unaltered

I love teenagers they keep my ego in check.  The other day, I was enjoying lunch my with preteen and teen kids, man my kids are mean, do they take after me?   So-my mom and my dad were there, Dad-who despite being in a wheel chair has all his hair and fewer wrinkles than me, despite those Pall Malls, we’re logging some family time.  My kids proceeded to tell me that I looked older than my mom-Damn the wine and steroids.  Damn the Ban De Soleil ads.   Damn my mother prodding me to get out of the sun why didn’t she just say “Lisa, spend another hour or two out their in that 2:00 O Clock sun sweetie.”   My kids secretly clicked away as I told stories at lunch.  The click was my phone- they had slid it outta of my purse undetected.  My forehead up close has serious wrinkles.   Each one having a different story for all the seven wrinkles stacked like ripples in the sand perched above my brows.     They giggled…which caught my attention.  Teenagers don’t laugh.  I realized they were taking photos of me, good and close up, making sure to get the dry texture of my skin and the freshly puffy eyes from sleeping in.   I had thought I’d looked good when I left the house?  Then….they took photos of the forbidden zone.  Yes-my forehead!   The ripples are deep as deep as the unfortunate life episodes that carved them there.   Each one a mark of time, a tear-filled, anger filled, episode -that one most prominent had to be where they cuffed me and put me in the back of the car.   I don’t drink anymore……but indeed the ones on my forehead made me want to excuse myself from the table and demand Cherie my hairdresser come right over with her scissors and snip me some bangs -NOW.   My wrinkles matched the ripples on my textured olive green sweater.  The sharpness of the iphone photos are incredible.   My forehead looks like Gordon Fucking Ramsey’s!  Shit, less coffee, more night cream.   Suddenly I wanted to get home so I could have some Chevy Chase frozen faced unnaturally blonde facial lady inject poisonous shellfish toxins into my forehead and end this discussion.   But then what would happen?   Like Pandora’s box, I’d be like the celebrity addicts Michael Jackson, Joan Rivers,  Carrothead….top, whatever-I would turn into one of those airbrushed addicts who then look at their lips and suddenly think they should be bigger? Then their boobs, then their mouth starts talking to them in slow mo looking like Mick Jaggar’s -everthing looks distorted and imperfect.   Id feel like a teenager stoned for the first time sitting on the sink looking with panic into the bathroom mirror.  Then the lines around the lips reveal every imperfection looking like a cigarette must have plugged that fumarole nightly and cocktail hour must have lasted until dawn.  I mean wrinkles are like worse than belly fat!  Thanks god I don’t have fat issues.  Eegads.  The wrinkles spoke now like that man’s boil in the movie “How to get Ahead in Advertising.”  My appearance would taunt me.  I would demand my eyes be pulled tighter until I looked like Connie Chung and I was craving Oxycodone hourly.    Later I asked my uncle if I looked older than my mom, he answered, “it depends on the lighting. ”  I decided surgery might take me down-the remedy would be bangs, Mexican potency advanced levels of Retinol and rose tinted glasses everywhere just like Jack Nicholson. Cause quite frankly there is nothing less than genuinely real about me.   I’d surrender Lisa to the knife, why now?  Besides, I really am prettier inside. Some day when my kids call me to borrow money, they will have my entire plastic surgery fund, the one I didn’t use-at their disposal!

True

As a child my hobby-

Rock collecting, and poetry writing.

Hours were spent,

my pointy nose inches from soil,

daylight, my shadow and me

digging,

Digging with whatever sharp tools

were found in the garage;

in my own back yard,

…..Fools gold, mini garnets,

rounded globed octagon treasures,

my rock book was miffed,

me smiling,  entranced,

By middle age I question,

When did the grape become my hobby?

It wasn’t even my favorite fruit.

If only I’d stuck to rock collecting

And poetry writing,  and stayed true

To myself.

Life Goes Right to my Head

Liquid form;

iced or not

never cared for pills;

liquid is the form of blood, of water, of tears,

Lapping at the sides of my glass

hitting me like a tropical wave,

wide slobbering tongue,

like a hunting dog,

Pacing for a bird,

it imbibes newness,

only a celebrity rush of stardom

could feel this way,

it quickly turns old.

Some are refreshed

others…. we gulp, not sip

we gulp yearning to reboot,

I cannot slug it fast enough,

life must be sipped slowly,

As life goes right to my head.

Take the Love that is there.

It is not simply more love, less hate;

It is “let’s talk about it,”

Let sit through it….the ugliness,

perhaps not holding hands…but meeting eyes,

a scouring pad couldn’t  clean it,

the layer of burnt on hurt…

But I will sit with it, cross legged-like a yogi

I will inhale it’s truth-

as I inhale smog filled air.

I will wear it, even if it bunches at the knees,

And pools at the ankles,

as ill-fitting as a cheap suit with a chincy hand; navy blue,

Sure you can drive people away, flatten them,

Like a race car driver named Pity,

leaving black rubber at every turn.

But like me you’ll awake another day;

Breathe in through your nose,

 

smell all that is fetid and rank,

Surely you’ll wince and turn away,

but it smells of truth- the kind you avoid

the kind with answers;

and when the air is cleared it smells clean like the sea.

Even Raw chicken,

must be seasoned and roasted,

to bring about flavor.

Sit with all that is real, raw, even the unthinkable

A murderer in a grey walled cell,

Surrounded by each moment of what he has done,

with no where to look but inward.

Go back to the beginning of you,

did it start at your mother’s breast

or did it start on the couch with the canary yellow floral print

and the rust colored piping that trimmed the arms that hugged you in-

that jungle of upholstery telling a story through faint smells

of gingerbread and cigarettes

And drug store perfume that should be called Eau de’mothballs,

take the love that is there and forgive.

Skin’s Truths

Hands outstretched…a little further, a little more,

My Touch means less and less,

As it’s unmet by more than air.

The speckled valley of age tarnishes perfection,

Dots my hands like brown islands

Each one an unspoken story;

Deep grooves mark my every laugh,

Fault lines of life’s quakes, sun peaks,

Winds of struggle,

If I hold very still, and want-

With all my might….want bad enough,

With every nerve ending and pore, neuron and muscle,

With the symmetry of the choirs last note,

Will you hear my truth?

Feel the wear on my jacket,

The shell, that is barely impervious to all elements?

The one that tells my every truth,

Even those my mouth keeps silent?

Why would I inject poison into me to fight truth?

To stop the truth, is to stop the wonder

That lingers

At the heels of questions

unasked?

Anger Serum

A good friend spoke these words to me,

As my insides squeezed inward,

An invisible fist wringing my heart,

My breath dashed away,

“it’s just a drink”

For her it was….Simply, a beverage

For me it was utter darkness lifted,

Painful quietude removed,

I sipped, then I gulped,

The light switched on,

The dark empty room bright with light,

Like a toy room awaiting a sick boy,

By the second glass innocence freed,

Me- a floppy, toy rabbit,

Coming alive, ambling out of the walls,

Add red wine, a catholic priest, a wafer of grape on my tongue,

Demons giggle and rise to the top,

The rabbit is in full swing; Tango, Foxtrot, Lindy Hop,

Eased by smiles flashed her way,

Is it the flaring of the dress that gains approval?

The yearning subsides,

I am skating, gliding on the glass top

Like a figurine on a child’s music box,

Pulled as if a magnet tugs beneath my skates,

A once dormant smile stretches wide

My heart drops out,

If only temporarily,

I am Weightless, buoyant, bobbing free

Wanting for more red anger serum

 

Becoming Him

I exude comfort and happiness now, after nearly 44 years. I have been disemboweled, dismembered, disheartened and deflowered enough in this life to know I have been ring side with the count shouted at my head, swollen, used up, blood and drool puffing out from under me. Somehow I got to my feet before the bell? My life has meaning, but what that meaning is, is still unclear. I was crushed from the moment I was born. Not literally, it seems plenty of us where the second child that was supposed to save the marriage, the ones that were supposed to be a boy. Many of us were greeted as disappointments, burdened souls, our arrival was announced and our fathers never showed up. I knew even though I was barely two, the moment he left…the moment I didn’t have a daddy anymore. It wriggled in deep underneath my blue satin trimmed blankie, cause of course I was supposed to be a boy. Pain doesn’t discriminate by age either. It hurt like my heart was dislocated and popped back into place. My sister fared worse. She had been old enough to love him, to call him Daddy and wait for him to come home at night; drunk or not, she knew his smell and his touch. She was also old enough to have a babysitter break her leg in the same place twice. Turns out I was the lucky one.

To be continued……..

The Day he was Murdered

It was Christmas time, so fitting, the weather was moody and hung there like a wreath whose welcome cedar scent was fading; it had hung there too long to be festive anymore.  I had holed up with a book, A prayer for Owen Meany, I recall the phone ringing and the worry stirring in my blood. I knew it was bad news. Bad news has a particular ring that is different. Stacy was in a accident they said. Stacy was my brother. The word “accident” came out sounding like a lie.  I was twenty, soon to be twenty one, so many, many words my ears intercepted were tuned to skepticism but this was blatantly wrong sounding.  I could feel it growing instantly in the pit of my gut.  Even a vision of my brother in a wheelchair faded fast, he was not in an accident- this I knew. 

     What hit me underlying the grief was how poorly people are equipped to comfort one another. They would say I know how you feel “my grandpa just died, or my cousin died,” or “oh at least he was your Stepbrother.”  I knew death, I saw it eroding away at my grandmother for six years, cancer.  This was different, he was very much alive, had kicked smoking, gotten married, chosen a career as a police officer he was getting his shit together and today was to be his thirtieth birthday. 
I wished so many things after that day.  I wished others had seen God the way I saw him that day. I drove away from the church shaking my head with new found responsibility to live for him. The world slowed down every car I passed made me stare hard at them and think how lucky they were and how my brother wasn’t.  The church had been dark and cold, and the priest words unaffecting until he said and we will see Stacy again some day…..and from nowhere the sun shined beamed a blinding display of light through the window and stretched it’s warmth across the entire front pew of just family. It was unmistakable and eerily out of place as the weather had been pouring grey plumes of despair from the sky. I Sideways rain uncharacteristic of Seattle rain woolen grey cloud cover hovered over Mt. Olivet cemetery. As is customary with military burials gunshots were fired every click of the metal of the gun cocking magnified and the silence parted by intermittent thunder booms almost as loud as the sobs that followed. I still call up the image as they lowered his flag-draped casket into the earth, it was unearthly, surreal so permanent. God’s fury was everywhere that day, still this day I didn’t feel he would cradle me any longer after that day. No one should die on their 30th birthday, and no one should attend a funeral two days before they turn 21, or they may very well find alcohol to be truly the best medicine to soothe away the hurt. I did……for years to come. 

Stacy, if you were here I would tell you I will advocate for gun control in your name, because even though you were beaten to death, you would never have fought back if they hadn’t pointed a gun at your face.

The Fallacy of the Artist

             The Fallacy of the Artist

I used to drink like….

Bukowski and Thomas;

Scribbling heartfelt prose

with a borrowed pen

 on a bar napkin.

The tears were there

But infused with the contents

Of my glass,

I swallowed them back

Like a true artist does

Dedicated to no one

but the fallacy of my art

masked as my true craft, pain