On Booze

I have this big, long blog post in the making about my move out of the suburbs. When I get around to writing it, I do hope it will be a lovely intermingling of humor and passion, inspiration and loss, toying with both the endogenous euphoria and despairing nadirs of the 20-something experience. I hope. However, I have found with writing that it flows most naturally when the mind and the soul are currently enmeshed in the topic. When the topic is forced, it does not so freely flow from the hands. So, tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I write to you concerning booze.

20140627_180135Before you get too excited, this isn’t some tell-all of beer bong, binge drinking college days — that actually was not my college experience. In addition, no, I’m not drunk blogging. I am, however, sitting at the table in my endearing new little studio in a cotton mint-colored dress, wearing my pearls, and reflecting upon the night. I do, in fact, have with me a bowl of soon-to-be-gone chocolate ice cream and a robust glass of red wine that came from a seductive six-dollar bottle. And, in a way, this post did begin its initial draft back in college. It’s just that, unlike what would be associated with the big-sports-school, collegiate stereotype, my dance with booze did not involve clumsily throwing ping-pong balls into red plastic cups full of Bud Light, but rather some of the most intellectually orgasmic conversations over IPAs with my best friend.

Alcohol is a controlled substance, and therefore a delicate dance. Too many souls have been lost to its enticing alteration of reality, but then at the same time, I also believe that some souls have been found. At Union Station the other day over a glass of wine, I contemplated this dichotomy of sobriety and one too many. After the mild chemical modification of my mind after a drink or two, I often find myself flurrying in thoughts, desiring to capture the imagery onto paper, to mold all of these dreams into a reality. However, it is only a window where this moment can constructively occur. And, thus, creativity lives within the delicate space between sobriety and one too many. It’s the journey from a sleepy soul to an enlightened soul to a lost soul, and it’s about knowing where to stop on that journey. It is within this space that the best lines get written on the stall doors of bar bathrooms. I have recorded a few over the years, two of which follow:

“This is such a beautiful life. The sun is shining and it is raining.”

“The best things in life are…cheesy bacon tots.”

Both are true statements. Both in their own lovely ways. Both exist within that creative space between sober and lost — where truth reveals itself and one allows oneself to see it. Life really is beautiful, and cheesy bacon tots can be damn good.

The namesake of my blog post comes from a man known for his own on the edge and often over the edge relationship with booze. A year ago, it was my first birthday spent in Washington, D.C. I had just moved here and I was convinced I would spend my birthday in some lonesome little puddle up in the suburbs. However, a friend of mine from Oregon was in the area and asked me to come have dinner with her and her family downtown. So, I put on a show-me-what-you’ve-got-big-city dress and some heels and I headed downtown. I tipped a fantastic homeless man who helped me find my way after about four occurrences of getting completely lost trying to find the restaurant (but getting lost with a lovely prance still going, mind you). I strutted. I dined. It was fabulous. And when dinner was over, I was not, and so I went to one of Dupont Circle’s many fantastic bookstores. I soon found On Booze, a compilation of prose by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The back of the book describes the work as such:

“First you take a drink,” F. Scott Fitzgerald once noted, “then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” Gathering debutantes and dandies, rowdy jazz musicians, lost children and ragtime riffraff, On Booze runs a gauntlet of drunken debauchery as Fitzgerald experienced it: roaring, rambunctious, and lush … with quite a hangover.”

I was sold. For it sounded just like how life is, and how it truly ought to be — fantastic with the occasional hangover. Hangovers are a perfect time to reflect, to rebuild, to renew, to understand why you never want to do that again.

I am guilty of having a secret Twitter account with which I entertain myself by trying to ambiguously capture my thoughts at the moment under 140 characters. For a wordy lady like myself, it’s not a bad exercise. Tonight, I remembered crafting some over the years that had to do with the topic of booze, and so I started scrolling back through my micro-blogs, you might say, pulling some of those induced by a drink or two. A random selection, listed chronologically from oldest to most recent, follows below:

  • I think I understand now why it’s called the Ill-tempered Gnome.
  • Wells Fargo ATMs, Chili Truffles, Bathrooms with Scented Sticks, Excessive Talks on Tennis. So many good memories and they’re all with you.
  • When a heart breaks, it can break even — provided that the volume at which total revenue equals total cost is met.
  • Friends don’t let friends drink and transcribe.
  • Two drinks and many business cards later.
  • Happy hour is fun. Happy five hour is fantastic.
  • Because one beer always means two beers and two beers always means the truth.
  • DC: Where people decline your happy hour invite because they’re already committed to another one.
  • Moving + Beer, a winning combo!
  • Paying for your bar tab with cash brings a new and important awareness to budgetary realities.

Some of these are fairly superfluous, though I remember the thoughts, feelings, and events behind each of them vividly (the beauty of getting things down into writing, really). However, some of them beg to be further explored in this conversation on booze.

1.) Because one beer always means two beers and two beers always means the truth.

I think people put up a lot of walls. I think they put them up for good reasons, but I also think that they often get in the way. And, truly, the juiciest moments of life can only occur when you’re willing to kick them down for bit.

So, you throw back a microbrew, and you’re feeling rather nice. And then you gulp down just one more and you’re in this little space where all of those walls, for a second, are transparent. They’re still up, you’re still guarded, but you can see the truth on the other side, the enticing moments begging for your participation. And so you start to explore. You start to talk, to sketch out these marvelous ideas, to reconcile conflicting dreams, desires. In that moment, the world is so open, and your eyes can see it all. (P.S. It is best to stop here, despite the draw for “just one more.”) You want it, badly — the truth.

And, the thing is that you can have it, but most people tend to forget that when their walls return to their opaque beginnings come morning. The real exercise comes when, after seeing the truth, you must choose to harness what you have seen, make your life live in that delicate space of creativity in a non-chemically-induced manner, act on what you’ve learned.

2.) When a heart breaks, it can break even — provided that the volume at which total revenue equals total cost is met.

I’m a bit of a nerd, and I’m ok with that. Back in college, I took a nonprofit financial management class with a professor I absolutely adored. Her background was in economics and so, for that quarter, I allowed economic principles to mingle with my other more artful thoughts. And, when joined with a beer and some 20-something happenings, I reached the above thought (inspired by a song at the time, “Breakeven” by The Script).

So, for those of you who fall into the category of never being able to be convinced of something unless it can be described to you in economic terms, this one is for you. And, it is actually more in the realm of this thought that got me here tonight — with this glass of wine, this bowl of ice cream (already gone at this point in the writing), and these rambles on booze.

Tonight, I went to go watch Celeste and Jesse Forever (Spoiler Alert coming up, by the way!) at the stupendous E Street Cinema with two fantastic 20-something ladies and one fantastic 20-something man. The movie detailed two best friends who had gotten married and now found themselves separated, but still terribly in love with one another. In the end, they didn’t end up getting back together, and we watched as their two lives soon moved forward into new chapters. As the credits rolled, the four of us 20-somethings, with heavy hearts, agreed — we couldn’t have moved on that fast, that easily. Sure, she went through a phase of dressing sort of like a crazy cat woman (I think we all secretly covet an abridged version of this phase in our own lives — I mean, such a good time to explore obscure fashions!)but no, no — not after that goodbye he just gave her. We just wouldn’t have been ready yet.

Our sentiments aside — people put up a lot of walls. In addition, I think that when walls are allowed to come down, at the first sight of heartache, people are also very quick to build them back up much stronger this time and covered with a thick, tough layer of scar tissue. Then, they simply move on to the next era of life.

Life is a constant opportunity cost, and the cost of letting your walls down, opening up a window, is the knowledge that there is a good chance one day you will feel it sting. Because even when an era ends peacefully, it still ends. New eras usher things out, and foreign objects come to take their place. But, on the flip-side, the opportunity cost of not letting your walls down, not letting the enticing moment of two-drink transparency lure you to the other side, is not getting to taste the sweet unknown of the stories left to be created in some other life.

So, let’s say you love and then you lose and then you just put back up your walls. Well, it’s great that you jumped into this temporary sea of bliss, but in your haste to not feel its absence, did you miss the point? I argue that putting your walls back up too quickly adds to the cost of the endeavor and cheats your revenue.

At the end of the movie tonight, and after brief discussions with my companions, I jotted a quick note to myself — Because maybe in the end, we just need our time to grieve. And this gets me back to booze, which gets me back to my own glass of wine.

As I’ve moved out of the suburbs and embarked on my second year in D.C., a lot has happened. A lot has changed. A lot has begun and ended and been replaced by other things. And I’m guilty of sometimes rushing through it all. With feet always in motion, I have a heart that loves fully, but tries to fly away at the same time, knowing the next chapter forever lurks on the horizon. So, tonight, after a heartwarming outing with pals in the city, I decided that it was time to let myself “grieve” a little in the best way a 20-something gal can. I grabbed a spoon, I brought my friends Ben and Jerry to the table, I poured that fermented potion into a big ole wine glass I brought back from my grandmother’s house, and I sat down to write this to you.

It’s not about drowning your sorrows in booze. It is about having a reflective glass; a glass that, actually, allows you to enter into your reflective zone, that delicate space between sobriety and one too many, that breaks down the walls you’ve built (and knocked down, and rebuilt a couple times with reinforcements), and perhaps take something fairly valuable away from it all. It makes that classic moment in romantic comedies where the newly single lady gazes out peacefully and contently toward her own future more believable. Because, as we all faced this evening, we just weren’t ready to move on like that.

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