I was on a bicycle, loaded down like an NVA soldier hauling supplies along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but instead of rockets and rice, I carried beer. I, too, was on a mission. I needed to get enough supplies to last through the week-end. While this was not as daunting as an essentially agrarian country having to take on the military industrial complex of a major superpower, it was still a pain in the ass. Back then, stores couldn’t sell alcohol on Sundays in New Mexico, so you really had to stock up.
I never understood why that law was still on the books. If you want to get all archaic, why not bring back debtor’s prisons and public flogging? At least those things made life more interesting. Blue Laws serve only one purpose, to reassure the self-repressed that there isn’t anyone out there having more fun than them. Fuck that. Let them know what they’re missing. I hope it eats them alive. The Puritan should suffer from his lifestyle choice just as much as the Libertine for his.
For years this violation of the Separation of Church and State had been a weekly hurdle to clear. Having enough to drink was already a difficult obstacle course to run, you didn’t need some meddling goody-two-shoes legislator rolling out marbles to trip you up. Why make the already burdensome burden of alcoholism, more…burdensome?
I would start concerning myself with Sunday on Wednesday. If it meant skipping a few meals to stock away the funds, so mote it be. “Better to be hungry than thirsty” was my motto, so was “Dead by Saturday than Sober on Sunday.” This was serious shit, not like Iwo Jima serious, but as close to it as I wanted to come.
The car had shit the bed again, so I was riding a sort-of-abandoned bicycle that had no seat. I had to pedal standing up, which was developing very powerful quadriceps along with a bulging hernia. I had a twelve pack strapped on to the rack in the back, and a backpack stuffed drum-tight with 40 ounce malt liquors. There was another twelve pack bungee-corded to the handle bars, and a plastic bag with can of beans and a potato hanging from my wrist. It made for an unstable ride. The smallest pebble would set me swerving into heavy traffic, the bike twisting and bucking like a hooked Marlin. My greatest concern was not for my own safety, but for the precious cargo on board. Blood can replace itself. That was another motto.
Making sure there was enough beer was a full-time job, which might explain why it was so difficult to hold one down, My work as an “event planner” was constantly interfering with my time-line for world domination. The smallest journey required the logistical planning of Hannibal crossing the Alps. Overnight trip, you say? I’m going to need street maps with all the surrounding liquor stores and bars indicated with pinned flags, two bandoleros of miniatures, and a suitcase filled with back-up bombers of malt liquor. That bag stays in my car, which I’m taking separately.
Just going to the movies was a big production. God forbid I should have to sit there for ninety minutes and not have enough. I once ran out during a movie some friends dragged me to. It was “Michael” with John Travolta. I would never make that mistake again. I’d pack Tall Boy cans up and down the length of my sleeves and pant legs, then walk like the Tin Man into the show. The empties would invariably get knocked over and roll down the length of the theatre, annoyingly announcing an alcoholic in the house. “Sorry everybody, but I can’t enjoy normal past-times without being thoroughly hammered to the cross of my addiction. I’m nutty like that.”
This bike was worse than the last one. That one had a slow leaking front tire that really made the quads burn, but at least you could sit down and coast for a while. Either way, they were bikes that made the ride downhill seem as hard as going uphill. A metaphor? Just more shit to deal with. I really didn’t care how I got there, as long as I got there. Sunday was looming. I would walk on my knees like a pilgrim to Chimayo, if I had to. Although it would have been nice not to have drivers try to graze me, throw shit at me, or pass by screaming “Party down! Motherfucker!” scaring me into a wild wobble that almost punctures my scrotum on the aluminum pole sticking up where a seat should be.
I rode past a Kelly’s Liquors that was about to open soon. I was excited. It was close by. It would make my march to the grave that much shorter. I would get to know the staff there like family, and they’d worry about me when I didn’t show up. Kelly’s Liquors. With the money I spent there, I could have bought a 17 foot sailboat, but what good are those without beer? There was a cashier there that used to fill me with the most infernal desire. I can’t remember her name, but she was kind of hot, in a weird way.
I put the bike in the garage, next to a case and a half of cheap canned beer. I hated the brand, but would buy pallets of it when it went on sale. It would sit in the garage, until I ran out of real beer. If the stores were closed, or I was out of money, or it was Sunday, I’d drink it. Then, almost alchemically, it would turn from tasting like nervous sweat into amber ambrosia, grained goodness of the Gods. Cheap beer is like fine wine. The time has to be right.
I made a note to get more when I had access to a truck.
As I took off my backpack, one of the 40 ounce beers fell out and smashed on the floor. There’s no way I can describe what seeing something like that is like to my non-alcoholic friends. (I do have some) Frankly, admitting the extent of the trauma is a little embarrassing. It’s bad. I just stood there looking at it, jagged shards of dark glass sticking up like shark fins, the agitated foam coming to rest in a puddle of sadness and loss, Even after eight years of sobriety it hurts to think about it. I don’t think I ever fully grieved that beer.
I didn’t bother cleaning the mess up. I just got on the bike and went back to the store. We all suffer loss, the trick is to keep moving forward. I got to the supermarket and got the same cashier that checked me out twenty minutes earlier, Michelle, who was kind of hot, in a weird way.
“You’re back already?”
“I dropped a forty on the floor,” I told her. She went “Awww! I am so sorry!” very sincerely, like she knew how much that would hurt me.
“Yeah well, no big deal really. I’m just here to replace it.”
“With three more?”
“It only seems fair.”
She rang me up. I put the beers in the backpack and zipped it up tight. I went out and unlocked my bike. Even though it didn’t have a seat, I knew some people would still steal it. I had seen it done. I stood up and started pedaling. “This is also very good for the triceps,” I told myself, “And the lower pectorals. I think it’s also making my back stronger.” It was good to be strong when you have to carry a lot of weight. It may have been my imagination, but it seemed like the weight was getting heavier by the day. I turned on to the street and flipped off a guy that drove by honking.