“Hey hey, Babydoll, all you gotta do is call. I drank a lot of beer, but you know I got a friend, and his name is Alcohol!” Alcohol, by The Butthole Surfers. Continue reading
I was a creepy kid alright. No doubt about it. Something was seriously wrong with me. A dark lad, with different interests. I had a wild imagination, and sometimes I used it, but more often it used me.
As a young snapper, I loved reading about prisons and leprosy. When I saw the movie Papillion with my dad, I couldn’t believe my luck. It had both. I begged him to buy me the book, which he did. Now I could read about convicts getting their guts cut opened by other prisoners looking for the diamonds the dead man keestered, and lepers whose fingers came off on the coffee cups they hand you to drink from. This was heavy shit, and I found it all so much more interesting than the suburban postcard I was living in.
So while other kids were learning to play little league, I was under my sister’s trundle-bed, gnawing on coconut husks, pretending to be doing time in the hole. I may or may not have leprosy, depending on how miserable I wanted to make-believe to be that day. Like I said, a dark lad, with different interests.
I get a kick out of kids these days with their vampires and zombies. More people have had the life sucked out of them in the Colonial French penal system, or for that matter an office job, then by any blood-thirsty vampire. Statistically, more people have died from having their flesh rot off their bones, right before their very eyes, from common diseases than have had their brains eaten by some zombies stumbling through a mall like sleep-deprived commuters.
Kids, if you want to scare yourself. Go all the fucking way. Convince yourself you have cancer, or that someday, because of the bad choices you’ve made, you’ll have to hide knives in your ass just to survive, or sell insurance. There’s plenty to be scared about right here in the real world. Unless, you just want to pretend to be scared, and I get that. Then vampires and zombies are cool. Sorry for getting all preachy.
As an introverted little imp, I spent a lot of time in my own head, and in the process created a bleak inner landscape. My family’s stories about life in Europe during World War 2, my own morbid research into historical plagues, wars, and genocide, as well as the ugliness I saw in myself and other people, convinced me I was on the scariest planet in The Universe.
Could I discover everything that there was to get freaked out and scared about? I’d sure try my darnedest, Mr. Wizard.
I used to love reading about paranormal phenomenon, ESP, ghosts, pyramid power, telekinesis, but especially about UFO’s and ancient astronauts. I would pray for an invasion. I actually remember praying to Jesus to send UFOs to take over the world. Double-barreled crazy? Perhaps, but the way I saw it, we’d be much better off than the way we were running things.
Worst case scenario, they come down and decide to exterminate all of us. In other words, not really all that bad. I mean to actually save the planet, I’d make that call. Just DDT us like some roaches that have taken over a building. My big hope was to be captured and sent to a comfortable life in one of their zoos, some habitat they’ve surrounded with things they’ve found humans to love.
I’ve been watching the skies since.
Then there was my deal the Devil. (No, I didn’t actually make any “deal” with him) I mean my fear of and fascination with him. I was given his basic profile report by a Catholic upbringing, which also pretty much convinced me I was bound to go to hell and meet him in person. I used to rehearse the speech I would deliver to him regarding my humane treatment, if only because I had apparently served his will so well while on Earth. At least that’s what I got out of Catholicism. That me and The Devil were two peas in a pod. He loved sin, and by cootchity, so did I.
It was only a matter of time before he would come to claim one of his own. And when he did, there would be a hot eternity in the old town tonight.
I really got worried after having choice excerpts from the The Exorcist read to me by my friend, Adam Weiss. He was Jewish and could claim immunity from being possessed. Good for him. I wasn’t so lucky. It seemed like Catholics made easier targets. After really mulling over the concept of demonic possession, I was convinced I was a prime candidate to host a pea soup spewing party. It just made perfect sense.
At night, when I felt The Dark Lord getting too close, I’d lay in bed clinging to a rosary, my illustrated children’s bible, or a clear plastic dashboard mount St. Christopher, my eyes and asshole tightened to close off any ports of entry. When my bed started to shake one morning back in 1971, I actually thought, “And so it begins…”
I was relieved when my father ran in with half a face of shaving cream yelling about an earthquake.
That, by the way, turned out the most harmless shaking bed I’d ever be in. I would eventually learn there was something out there more terrifying than the Devil and more devastating than earthquakes, and it all starts with a smile. That nightmare would begin soon enough. For now I only had to wrestle with Satan for my soul. Women were still behind the ropes waiting to get tagged in.
Between preparing myself mentally for a life in prison, begging U.F.O’s to come down, and running from the devil, participating in healthy recreation like running around a baseball diamond, or bouncing a ball around, seemed like a dangerous distraction. There was just so much to think about and scare yourself with. Gnarly stuff to mentally prepare yourself for, when it finally happened.
Besides, I sucked at sports. My father never really taught me that stuff, and I’d get all nervous and blow simple catches. The more I freaked about it, the more I dropped the ball. (A very good life metaphor, I might add.) Team sports are a healthy way to integrate individual personalities to work together harmoniously. No wonder that got skipped.
Then there was the clothes. My mother was insane about them. I was going to be her living fashion doll and she would play dress up with me. She insisted in dressing me in the latest styles…from West German fashion magazines. I even remember the name of one of them, Wenz. Wenz for the wimpiest in wiener wear. It featured some of the gayest, most dip-shittiest outfits ever designed for children, or rather, der kinder volk, to look their absolute dorkiest and most beat-upable.
Going to school in New York City public schools dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy, or like a Broadway stage dancer, was bound to magnetize beatings. Who could resist? I was like a multicolored spinning and flashing bass lure. I caught a lot of them. Then later got some of the West coast version when we moved to California. The clothes had come with me. I would beg my mom to let me dress like the other kids, but she never relented. We played a cat and mouse game for years, with me wearing two pairs of pants over each other before school, or keeping a smuggled T-shirt to change into.
“But mom, the kids pick on me for being dressed like this!”
“They pick on you because they can smell the fear on you,” she’d say, “like dogs can.”
I tell you what though, being exposed to so much physical violence early on did something to me. Years later, when I was actually earning a living fighting with dudes, there was deep well of rage I could tap into. I was not just hitting the son of bitch in front of me, but every single one I ever took a beating from.
I remember hitting on this one fucker in Rodeo Nites one night, and he just kept changing from Paul Rodriquez, to James Rich, to John Mahoney. I poured it on, and wound up having the other bouncers working that night pull me off.
I could become a vicious motherfucker when it served me. Took me a lot of deprogramming to undo that guy.
Speaking of deprogramming. My parents were very Right Wing, as most refugees from a Communist takeover tend to be. It was explained to me early on, that everything bad that was happening in the world was because of Communists, and their lackey surrogates, the hippies. They were going to take over the world and ruin our lives. They didn’t believe in God or taking showers, and would force us not to either.
They were going to do that with drugs. The hippies would disseminate them among the population, and it would weaken our will to resist a Red invasion of the United States. In fact, they were doing just that to our soldiers right then, in Viet Nam. Holy shit. Add Communists, hippies, and drugs to my list of things to be scared of. And, perversely, now be suddenly more interested in.
Drugs especially. I used to read my parent’s Time and Newsweek to look for articles about drugs. I learned there were all kinds, and that they would do all kinds of different things to you. Some would make you see things that weren’t there. Some made you really peppy, and others really sleepy. I became pretty savvy about drug culture, way before I even partook.
A semi-trailer truck would park in front of The Esplanade shopping center and it would have a display inside of all the different drugs and corresponding paraphernalia in exhibition cases behind glass. The idea was to educate the public on what to look out for so they could rat out whoever had any of this stuff around. That wasn’t what happened to me.
I’d stare mesmerized at the hash pipes, syringes with burnt and bent spoons, roach clips, bags of white powder, bags of brown powder, sugar cubes, pills of all colors and shapes. This was some bad stuff. Stuff people shouldn’t have. I wanted to play with all of it.
In fact, I used to pretend play drug dealer. I think I was in 5th grade, and I would bring in bags of brown sugar, which was Mexican heroin, and bags of white flour, which was French heroin, and thus more expensive. I’d have to explain all this to the other kids, and then hand out vitamin pills telling them what each one was. “This one is going to make you jump around a lot.” “This one is going to make you think that the swing set is a dinosaur.” And so on, and the kids would have to act out their various “trips.”
So it was no surprise when the world of substance abuse did finally open it’s doors of liquor and medicine cabinets, I pushed through the cafe doors like a little Baudelaire, a lazy, morbid, fearful little dreamer, a loner flaneur, morose and miserable, but now with an avenue of escape. Here was a remedy for all that ailed me. A fleeting but sweet relief from having to be me, one of the most miserable bastards I could invent. A brooding, cathedral gargoyle, hunched over a bong and a 32 oz. malt liquor.
By high school, I was dressing more normal, but the insides were warped beyond straightening. Somebody was about to grow up to be a crazy person, a total drunken Visigoth on a pillaging rampage through life.
Looking back now, I can see I wasn’t all that bad of a kid. Just a lot of things made me believe I was, and my reaction to that, ultimately did make me turn a little rotten. Or maybe I was just destined. All I know is, I thought it sucked to be me, and to be around me, and I was having to do both. Drinking and drugs gave me a small vacation. The problem was when I’d get back from my journey, somebody always ransacked the joint.
So I try not to make that mistake these days. I figure I’m stuck with being me. I can continue to try to evolve as a person, but hating myself along the way is just going to make me thirsty again. I try to cut myself a little slack, and in the process, find it easier to do it for others. Things tend to go better for me that way. I still believe in crazy things, but these days, they’re nothing that scares me. If anything, the crazy shit I believe these days helps me make it somehow.
I don’t try to make other people believe what I believe. All I want other people to believe is that they are okay, the way they are right now. That they are worthy of love regardless of their weirdness, or the mistakes they’ve made, and that love is stronger than anything, so there’s nothing to really be afraid of. That’s the only thing I’ll ever mount a soap box for, and hopefully help some creepy kid from having to go through what I did. That would make everything worth it.
My television was constantly blaring World War 2 documentaries. I figured the annihilation of Stalingrad was an appropriate soundtrack to the destruction and chaos around me. The night before, my friend from Ireland, Dez, had tried to break a Negra Modelo bottle on a table at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. He wanted to dramatically punctuate an anti-American diatribe he was delivering.
It was the 4th of July and he was drawing some serious stink-eye from the other patrons, but that just eggs an Irishman on. They’re all closet demagogues, anyway. Show me a rabble that needs rousing, and I’ll suggest an Irishman on his 9th beer. They’ve got charisma. The accent makes their words carry weight. It doesn’t take much for a Celt to swing my vote for madness. They make mayhem seem more lyrical. Their drunkenness is of the old-timey, hanging-off-the-lampost-singing-Danny Boy variety, sometimes coupled with good-natured bare-knuckled fisticuffs. It’s charming and lively.
I knew Dez liked America all right, but because he had an attentive audience, he couldn’t resist poking at the wasp’s nest. He loved when events went “toh-tahlly wide-o,” and bodies started to tumble over each other. The Irish don’t take fighting too personal. Some of their best friendships start while two former opponents sit together and cool their black-eye bruises by rolling a nice cold pint across them.
But you weren’t going to get a chance to start up that kind of friendship, if you can’t get people to mix. A full-on bar brawl is a great way to break the ice. Dez was going to make sure we’d meet new people.
He was on a roll, getting all Michael Collins on the crowd, but probably using the C-word a lot more. When he reached the climax of his rant he swung the bottle down hard. It thunked. He quickly tried to save the moment and banged the bottle down again, but it remained intact. He tried one more time to no avail. Feeling that he was losing his audience, he sat down defeated. The waitress came by and took away the empty bottle. We continued to drink, but now more quietly.
The next night, as we drank at my place, he expressed his amazement at not being able to break the bottle. He picked up another bottle of Negra Modelo and (I swear) barely tapped it on my small table. This time the bottle exploded showering every square inch of my tiny inefficiency apartment with slivers of brown glass.
“Well bravo, old boy,” I told him. “Just a pinch off in the timing department.”
“Can yah believe that one, eh? Like some fooking magic trick”
I wasn’t too upset. The place was already covered with broken glass from when I had gotten locked out and decided to punch out what I thought was a small pane of glass in the back door. That small pane turned out to be a full door’s worth of glass, carefully disguised behind a faux frame fraudulently dividing it into what appeared to be small individual squares. The final result of this decorative deception was spectacular. It was also too daunting a mess for the hairbrush and flattened Tecate box I was using as a broom and dustpan, so I just left it.
The average alcoholic learns to tolerate a lot of things normal people wouldn’t stand for. An entire apartment covered in broken glass was a small thing. Just ignore it like the bullet hole in the toaster, the deadly mold growing in the bathroom, and the burned taxidermy owl in the oven. If there’s still a bunch of 16 ouncers hidden in the toilet tank, everything is fine. Let the Nervous Nellie’s from Squaresville dither in a thither with their brooms sweeping up little spills.
Alcoholics have real problems, problems that can only be cleaned up by direct impact with the Meteor of Oblivion.
A few weeks later, Dez called me. He was all exited. He thought a bomb went off in his apartment. All the windows were blown out from the inside, but he wasn’t sure what happened. “Protestants?” I asked. “Ah Jayzus, dere’s no way tah tell.” When I got there the place looked like a scene from Londonderry during the 70′s. Every single window, seven in all, were smashed from the inside. He had been outside working on his van when the place blew up. Strangely, everything inside was fine. Not even the bong had been tipped over, and we knew how little it took to spill that bitch.
Never having stuck around long enough at a crime scene to be able to investigate one, we were at a loss while poking around for clues. If there was anything different, it was the new fresh smell the place had. Finally, he found a ruptured can of deodorant behind the radiator. We figured out his cat, Scabby, had knocked over the can on to the radiator where it heated up until it blew. The concussion was enough to force all the windows out of the panes, but not to knock over the bong. It was an impressive lesson in physics, especially for Scabby, who would not come out from under the couch.
It was late Saturday afternoon by then and felt like it was too late to go to a glass place. A Santa Fe summer storm was blowing in fast so we decided to get trash bags and tape them up around the frames. They didn’t have trash bags at Owl Liquors, so we decided to ride out the weather. We sat there drinking beer after beer while the wind and rain blew in from all sides. The curtains were flapping around like mad ghosts. Occasionally, lightning would illuminate the whole place. It was very cinematic. “I feel like we were on a haunted pirate ship,” I announced. “Aye, aye Cap’n,” Dez mumbled before his chin took a dive into his chest.
The next morning, the carpet was soaked. The book shelves had crashed down across the glass coffee table, breaking it and the bong it supported. The art posters were torn and curling up. The stereo was ruined, important court papers soaked in bongwater, and the cat was gone. None of this was due to the elements. It was the spontaneous bouts of kickboxing we’d erupt into.
The irony here was that the place had survived an aerosol bomb explosion, and a howling storm, but couldn’t survive us. We assessed the damage as we looked around for leftover booze. The damage was considerable, the leftover booze scarce.
We went and bought some windows. The guy already knew us. Sliding glass doors, faux-framed glass, and various bathroom mirrors having been replaced by us many times over. Our way of supporting a local business. He actually gave us a 10% good customer discount. A rare break in the business of breaking things.
“Orale! Los Masters of Disaster!” he happily greeted us.
“Hey Manny, we need seven windows,” I told the guy.
“Sart uv,” Dez said, picking out a splinter of glass from his finger.
The problem for the alcoholic with paying The Piper is the discriminatory loan shark interest rates he seems to charge us. Our escape from reality seems to cost more. Unfortunately, as much as it costs in wreckage, both material and emotional, we keep paying. The vig is big, but the options seem worse.
Until we run out of resources, get incarcerated, or die, we don’t stop. Healthy people don’t get that. Why would they? Hell, even we don’t get it. At this point, the wreckage was piling up, but I could still drink my way around it. It would be a little while longer before the big hammers started to come down.
Their shadows now hung over me as I swept the pieces of the bong into a snow shovel with a paper plate.
Well, here we are at 10,000 hits, and all my problems are over. I’ve been waiting for this moment. When everything is redeemed. When everything is glorious and I stand victorious.
I have conquered, and now reign cloaked in majesty and might. My enemies lie slain around my golden sandals.
Somehow, I thought it would be better. Maybe, 100,000 will do it.
It’s not that I am not grateful. I’m certainly grateful to all the bizarre Eastern European spam that has driven up my numbers. “You have many interesting points of valid depth. Your expression is provoking many thoughts. Your erection problems can be solved with medication from approved international pharmacy.”
I’m grateful to all the perverts and their sick and warped search engine terms that lead them to this place. Some are understandable: “toothbrush shank,” “sap gloves,” “jack hammer crotch,” “lap dancing strip club manager,” “can a penis get conjunctivitis?” At least there was some general matching reference to my published work. But the other ones are rather esoteric and puzzling; “pneumatic penis milking machine,” ” leather gloved sniffing,” and my personal favorite, “fierce vagina factory.” That must be the name of an all-girl punk band.
How did those search terms lead them to my work? Do I really want to know what that means about me, and my work?
Hey, whatever, right? Whatever crooked cyber path leads them to this blog is fine with me. I’m like a whore that way. Any search term will do.
However, the all-time champion is “Freckled Breasts.” Freckled Breasts has brought more hits to this site than ANY other search term. By far.
The freckled breast thing started when I wrote a piece about this biker chick I knew, and in it, mentioned her freckled breasts. No big deal. At least not to me.
Well, apparently freckled breasts are a really big deal to a whole bunch of other dudes. Ladies, if you happen to have freckled breasts, let me assure you, there is an entire international army of men out there who can’t seem to get enough of them. You might as well swell them out of your bras proudly. Start harnessing the power they provide. There are legions of men out there prepared to do your bidding, just for a chance to paw at your sun dots.
For awhile, there was a freckled breast frenzy. I’d get two to three hits every single day from a freckled breast search term. They couldn’t have been from the same guy, since he would’ve been hip to the fact that all my piece provided was nothing more lurid than a casual mention. I know that when surfing for your particular sickness, you remember those kinds of disappointments. You never click on those twice. No, these hits were coming from a bunch of different dudes. Internationally too.
It became so common that one night, while sitting at the computer, I announced to my girlfriend, “Hey, no freckled breasts today!” “You’re kidding,” she says.
It’s died down to just a hit now and then. However, I imagine that this little cluster bomb, loaded with freckled breast references, will Google me into the big leagues of blogging. (I just re-read that last sentence. I really am insane)
Anyway, I’m grateful for freckled breasts. And while freckled breasts may have built this blog, it took many more hits to get this far.
The unwitting stooge clicking on a photo I posted, or a Facebook friend so desperately bored that reading this week’s entry beats re-reading the cereal box for the eleventh time. I am grateful to you, dear reader. You have brought me my greatest kick, writing for somebody, anybody.
I’m grateful to have anyone read anything I’ve written, whether by accident or on purpose. I’m just grateful to be writing again, whether anyone else reads it or not. So what’s my fucking problem? Why do I feel so ambiguous?
I think it’s just Milestone Syndrome. Reaching a point you’ve been waiting for, getting over the thrill, and then wondering “What the fuck now?”
My driver’s license, my first car, losing my virginity, my first handgun, my first legal drink, not having to pay money for sex, a steady job, my own place, my first live-in, beating my first felony rap, having an attorney on speed dial …they were all a big deal. And then they weren’t. I thought they’d make my life better, but whether they did is debatable. They definitely made it different, and in a lot of ways worse.
So I didn’t have any illusions about reaching this momentous and crucial moment in the history of Mankind, when my generic WordPress blog reached an arbitrarily chosen number of clicks. If I did seize on this moment, I knew the yoke of all human suffering would be hung around my neck. I already struggle with bad posture. So that would kind of suck.
Good thing I’m inoculated. I know how to deal with things that suck. That was what the first part of my life was all about. Running and gunning through a booby-trapped obstacle course. How I managed to not die is a testament to my wisdom and moderation in all things. Level-headed, clear thinking is the key.
I guess that brings me to the thing I’m most grateful for, being alive in spite of my best efforts not to be. So yeah, having a blog do semi-okay is pretty amazing. But so is me being around to drop a piece of toast on the kitchen floor. It is an absolute miracle that either can happen. And I did it all without being burdened by things like common sense and reason.
Reason and common sense. Most people have them, and do just fine. But, take those inherent abilities and see what magic you can create by stewing them daily in judgement-impairing juice. Now you’ve created something far more interesting. This creature is very different. Operates on an entirely different system. If this…this thing can survive long enough to stop drinking, you’ve got a mutant on your hands.
The years of hangovers and emotional suffering have tempered it’s threshold pain tolerance. It isn’t scared of the stuff normal people are. Losing a job, a family, being sick, broke, in jail, close to madness, close to death. Been there done that. It’s all over-rated, but nothing to lose sleep over either. For a guy like me, every day above ground is a victory of such dizzying intensity, that everything else is just gravy.
The other day, a buddy called me. He’s like me, dig. Also off the sauce. He asks me if I’m going to be at a certain meeting. I say yeah, and he tells me to be on the lookout for this one dude just coming in. Fucker actually died his first day of work. Spent the week-end on a bender, then sobered up one day for work. He tells the boss he’s feeling dizzy and falls out into a full seizure and dies. No pulse, no breath.
There’s some ex-military dude there, and he knows CPR and starts revving up his heart with a massage and even pumps some of his air into this guy’s lungs. He keeps him alive until the paramedics get to him, and take him to the hospital. He lives. Now he thinks maybe he should look into getting sober. Who knows why now? Anyway, this friend tells me that Lazarus was going to be at the Men’s Wednesday Night Stag. Or at least he said he was going to be. Heard that before.
I go the meeting, recognize the dude from my buddy’s description and introduce myself. I welcome him back among the living and wish him luck. We sit through a fairly boring meeting. At the end of it, the dude, splits before I can go over and talk with him. Whatever. It’s not like I run around trying to save lives. I just try to make myself as available as I can. I’ve had some of my most eloquent speeches fall on deaf ears, and a casually tossed remark change somebody’s life. So, I don’t get too bent about what get’s heard or not.
The next day, I’m leaving the gym and heading out to my car. There he is. Trying to crawl out through the driver’s side from out of the passenger’s while some old woman waits smoking outside the car. I thought he was drunk, but he wasn’t. Her passenger door was broken, so that’s why he was crawling and sprawling all over the place. Man, did I know that one. The beater with the door that didn’t open. For me it was always the driver’s side. Anyway, he finally climbs out. “Hey, look who’s here!” I say.
The old lady drives off, and we stand around and talk a bit. He mentions he’s stressed about being homeless. Not a sissy stress, by any means, totally understandable. But this guy just died and came back. I don’t think I would be stressing too much about being homeless at that point.
“Dude,” I tell him, “The way I see it, you just made it into the bonus round.” Through no work or effort of his own, something saved his sorry ass. Maybe, he was just lucky, but something about him told me he wasn’t the lucky type.
“By all reasons, you should be dead, and staying that way. I don’t think you had much to do with that. Something else was in charge. Why don’t you let that something stay in charge for a while and see what happens.” I told him most people live in fear of death, and that he could cross that one off his to-do list. He could seize this moment and really go with it. He could approach life fearlessly. Dude, even death couldn’t kill you. You need to embrace your mutanthood.
Just get out there, and completely dig everything that’s happening, like the holy madman you’re meant to be.
I don’t know if any of it sunk in, but like I said, I don’t sweat that too much anymore. Anything that’s supposed to stick, will.
I’ll tell you what though, recounting the little pep talk I gave him has done wonders for me. Man, I really told it like it was. Then I hear what I call The Voice That Enlightens And Irritates Me At The Same Time, “What an inspirational message, Marius. You do realize that little lecture you delivered was really more meant for you, don’t you?”
Now, whether I listen to myself, remains to be seen. I guess anything that was supposed to stick, will.
Anyway, this randomly designated milestone comes at a fortuitous time. It coincides with a little vacation I’m going to take. After 46 or so straight weeks, I’m going to take one off. I fucking need it. Take a breath. I need to see where I want to do with this thing, this blogula creature that seems to have a life of its own. Should I kill it now, at the pinnacle of its success? Or make it endure the rest of the course, like I myself have chosen to do?
It was the worst hangover I ever had. And I’ve had a few over the years, but this one wins the gold. The National Anthem plays, and I put my hand over my heart. I humbly accept that I had something to do with its shining success. I’m the man behind medal.
Lets see. Beer, tequila, champagne, some wine in there, somewhere, then more beer and tequila. A little weed to give the merry-go-round a good spin, then a cheap cigar. Good party. I loved everybody. Everything was hilarious. I came home and wasn’t quite done. Just needed a little knick-knocker to bang the box closed. Nothing to drink except an ancient bottle of black raspberry liqueur that I brought back from my grandparents’ house after they both had died. Some shit called “Chambord.”
“Chambord is made from red and black raspberries, Madagascar vanilla, Moroccan citrus peel, honey and cognac.
Chambord is produced on the premises of a traditional Loire Valley Chateau, using all natural ingredients. Whole raspberries and blackberries are steeped in French spirits for a period of several weeks to produce a fruit infusion. This infusion produces a distinct raspberry flavor and aroma.
After the infusion is extracted, a second set of spirits is added to the fruit and allowed to rest for a few weeks. After this second infusion is drawn off, the remaining fruit is pressed to obtain the natural sugars and juice. The fruit-infused spirits and juices from the final pressing are then combined, and finally, the berry infusion is married with a proprietary blend of cognac, natural vanilla extract, black raspberries, citrus peel, honey, and herbs and spices. The liqueur is 16.5% alcohol by volume.”
Oooh! Sounds wonderful, especially that 16.5% alcohol part. What they don’t mention in the article is that all that fussing and fruit-infusing produces a lethal toxin, and that drinking it will give you a hangover you’ll remember and write about almost twenty years later.
It came in a fancy bottle that looked like the orb a King holds to symbolize something symbolic, His Majesty’s Royal Thing. I remember looking at this very same bottle as it sat on their shelf for over 30 years gathering dust.
I never saw anyone drink from it. People must have been hip to it. They must’ve have known it was death in a bottle.
I didn’t know that then. All I really knew was that it was a bottle of booze, and I wasn’t going to let a perfectly good bottle of booze go to waste. After my grandfather’s funeral, I threw it into my suitcase. I was never much into liqueurs and shit. Too fucking sweet. If I want to drink something that tastes like cough syrup, I’ll drink cough syrup, thank you.
The bottle continued to sit on my shelf for another year or so gathering more dust. I just kept it around. Hey, you never know when you’ll need it.
Like right now. I picked up the royal globus cruciger and uncorked it. I quickly took four or five deep swigs to get it down before the taste hit. The sickly sweetness made me want to retch. Dear God, that’s some evil shit. Who would drink this by choice?
It wasn’t long before the synergistic effect from introducing this unholy concoction into my already multifaceted drunk finally pushed me over the falls. I stumbled over to my mattress and let myself fall face first. Sweet holy oblivion! The Universal Void! Oh blessed dissolution! My soul’s husk entombed in the dark City of Pyramids, where I shall dwell with no name, hooded and faceless, in the Desert of Desolation for eternity.
Then, almost instantly, a loud alarm clock. Time to rise and shine, and give God your glory, glory!
I knew when I opened my eyes. This was no ordinary hangover. This was going to be special. Today, I would become a man. Calling in was not an option. Not because of any heroic work ethic, but because my finances were strung so tight, any day’s pay lost would spell my doom. I was $64 away from The Abyss.
I worked as a laborer for a local plumbing company. Most of the time I just dug trenches and ran the jack-hammer. The average day usually didn’t lack some brutal pain in the ass, but now it was winter and freezing cold. Everything would have a little extra suck attached to it. It had stormed three days earlier. Santa Fe was covered with 6 to 8 inches. I got Friday off because of the snow, so I was out of the blocks quick that weekend and had an early lead.
By Saturday night, I was at a world record pace. Remember being 86’d from Luna. Helping Marko push our car out of a ditch. Being at some St. John’s party where we almost got into a fight with some visiting Dutch dudes that looked like The Bay City Rollers. Eventful for sure, but we were on our A Game, and dealing effectively with what we had to deal with. I was just navigating my way through a fairly typical week-end night. Nothing yet to foreshadow the personal milestone I was about to be set.
It was the shindig at my friend Collette’s house on Sunday night that really propelled me to my bitter victory, and it was those last slugs of Moroccan citrus peel and honey that pushed my nose across the ribbon. I’m sure the Chambord assured that this Monday morning would become immortalized forever as my worst.
There was the most amazingly brutal, temple-banging headache, the kind that beats at the eyeballs so hard it jars them blurry. My stomach was clenched in nausea. Throat burning from bile. Hands already beginning to shake. I got out of bed, walked a few steps, then actually had to take a knee, like I had been chop-blocked. Fuck me. This is some new super strain of hangover. After all, I wasn’t a little baby about alcohol poisoning at this point, but this kind of suffering was almost biblical. This was very different. Why?
Beer, wine, tequila, champagne, beer and tequila and beer. Check. Nothing amiss there. Hmm. Oh, the fucking Chambord. That was the last, so that’s whose fault it was. Chambord. That’s the X factor in our equation. Fucking Chambord. From France.
I rode the walls down the hall to go outside and start the car up. I walked out in my underwear and one sock. I saw the lady across the street getting into her car to go to work. She saw me, and I saw her, but neither of us waved. The Olds Omega was a block of ice. The door was frozen shut. I got one foot up on the car and was trying to pull the car door open like it would make me the King of England. I finally got it open and after a few dozen tries, got the engine to turn over. I went back inside.
Breakfast was out of the question. I took a shower and put on my Gumby suit, which is what Marko and I called our green, cold-weather coveralls. I could only find one glove and settled for that. One of anything is better than nothing, except maybe tumors and shit. Or a hangover like this one. None of it would be a lot better. So much for that axiom.
I drove to the plumbing office late where Joe, yes, the plumber, was already waiting. Joe was an ex-speed freak from Farmington, NM. He wore his long blond hair in a single braid. He could be cool sometimes, but more often was one of the most hateful and sarcastic bastards that ever crawled the earth. I could forget about getting any sympathy from him. It was all I could do to get him to stop at a drive-thru so I could attempt food. He pulled into Hardee’s.
I hated Hardee’s but it was this or nothing, and except for tumors and a bunch of other stuff, something was always better than nothing. I got the 99 cent hamburger and a small coffee.
We drove up towards the ski basin. I pushed the burger down against a rebellious gag reflex and nursed the coffee. We drove in silence for a while.
“Whew! You really smell like liquor,” Joe said, rolling down the window.
“Well lah-dee-fucking dah!”
We drove up to the job site. It was up by Hyde Park. We were putting in a gas line to this multi-million dollar home belonging to an actress that starred in a terrible movie with Richard Dreyfuss. They couldn’t get a back hoe in on the side of the steep rocky hill, so it was up to me to jack hammer up the rock, then pick and shovel a trench about forty feet across. I had been working on it for three days and was only half the way there.
I had kept myself going by picturing myself in a Russian labor camp. I used to pretend that I was The Iron Prisoner, a man doomed by fate to a life sentence of hard labor. I would suffer silently and with dignity. Resigned and resilient. Bent but not broken.
When I climbed into that trench that morning, I was broken, and bent. Joe had gone inside the house to top out some drains and left me to my misery. I put on my glove and lined up the jack hammer on a cluster of rocks. I was just about to pull the trigger when I let go, turned, and puked my hot coffee and 99 cent burger. I watched it steam and sink into the snow. Seeing that made me puke again. Fucking Hardee’s.
After watching my two dollars disappear into a puddle of slush, I went back to the hammer and pulled the trigger. All hell erupted in my skull. A jack-hammer is an unpleasant tool to operate, even when you’re well-rested and in love with a beautiful woman, but hung over, poisoned to the pores, hating the very concept of existence, it’s…really…something.
I tried to picture myself in a cozy cabin sipping a pint of stout, with a nice roaring fire and a bi-sexual punk rock girl posing dirty for me on a bear skin rug. Hell, even folding laundry in the garage would’ve been better. Just about anything anywhere else than here now. My suffering silently and with dignity was now being broken up with periodic puppy whimpering and weeping.
At one point, I thought about just ending it all. I could lay down, put the chisel bit of the jack hammer in my mouth, then reach up with my foot and press the handle. I would kill myself by jack-hammering a hole through my skull. It seemed dicey, and if I didn’t pull it off, I’d be subject to teasing from the rest of the construction guys forever. Nice idea though. Maybe I’ll have a character in one of my stories do it.
I’d go as long as I could, then let go of the trigger handle. I was sweating champagne and Chambord. Dizzy and dry-mouthed, I’d cup a handful of snow and rub it into my face. Looking around, I could see I was surrounded by absolute beauty. We were up on spacious lot of land, with a lot of snow-flocked trees, and from the hillside, I could see all of Santa Fe below. The sky was deep blue. The sun bright.
The contrast to my inner landscape, the blighted, bombed out bummer within, was notable. I remember thinking, “Wow, everything around me is beautiful, and that’s very different from what’s going on inside.” Why was I always running away from Reality, when Reality looked better than the alternative I created?
My drinking was an escape, for sure, but an escape from what? Was it from Reality? Or just from the man experiencing it?
I put the hammer and the big questions aside, and took a few swings with the pick to break up the chunks. I scraped what I could with the shovel and threw it over the side, then pulled the jack-hammer back up and resumed blasting away. The open-minded punk rock girl was long gone by now. Nothing left but bitter irony to chew on, and maybe some hopelessness from a hose to wash it down.
That was pretty much lunch since I didn’t bring anything to eat. I spent it smoking a couple of cigarettes near a little fire one of the workers built in a fireplace. After lunch it was back to the trench. I was still pretty sick and the next four hours dragged.
I hammered and clawed and scraped and got to within seven feet of the end when Joe finally came out to tell me to roll it up. I dragged the tools and my ass back to the van. The headache and nausea were almost gone, but I was beat. Joe finally finished talking to the foreman and got in.
“You look like shit,” he said.
“I’ve never felt better,” I told him, “That Chambord stuff must be some kind of youth tonic.”
He dropped me off at my car. The left front tire was low. I’d deal with that tomorrow. I got in and drove to Kelly’s Liquors. There was a sale on Beck’s. I bought three six packs, just to be sure I didn’t Chambord myself again.
One thing I knew by then was that I couldn’t be trusted. All day long I had been telling myself I’d never drink again, and here I was at Kelly’s again. Just because I swore off Chambord, didn’t mean if I ran out of beer I might not be tempted to try it again, expecting different results. Alcoholics are fucked up like that. We never learn.
Well, almost never. I never drank that poison again. Eventually, I even managed to stop drinking. But, it took a lot more than the worst hangover of my life to want to. I had to really feel bad.