That’s What She said—How alcohol and the Office saved my life…An ovation of gratitude to the mockumentary narrative of the past nine years--w. cameo appearances from celine and Jesse a la BEFORE MIDNIGHT which opens t'day... (b.)
Good God, I should have known all this shit was comin’ due to the damn dreams:
There was a dream I nocturnally waded into like a stream in late October in which I was dangling off the hairlip precipice of a craggy cliff in the cemetery where the ashes of my father lay planted in a mantle of earth, grasping with all the temerity my soul could muster, wailing for help, watching as my boss (as well as a bevy of rich yuppies in fulsome sports cars) whizzed past and observed my supplication but refused to offer any assistance before I lost my grip and helplessly spiraled into a fumbling gothic meadow below.
There was a dream harvested in the autumnal magic of Mid-November where I found myself in a bleak college town living with a glitter of college students (sorority sirens and excessive make-up mermaids) in a dilapidated apartment complex, offering to buy them beer because they are not yet of age. The bacchanalian collegiate Girls Gone Wyld wet-t-shirt fete is in full swing when I leave and when I return with the alcohol the house is completely sad and empty and desolate. I then waltz over to a white marble sarcophagus-shaped box which I internally psychoanalyze as being the container where all my literary offerings and manuscripts are stowed and, upon creaking open the hinges sadly discern that the box is vacant and that I had yet to write a single page, that I had forgotten to fuel the linguistic armor of a lone word with the poetic petrol of my heart, that I had failed, after all this time dwelling in a collegiate setting, to scribe out the amorous scent and sound of a single worthy syllable.
Exactly one week prior to the emotional 9-11 detonating the interior architecture of my chest into a nest of ashes and hurt I started having dreams of lovers from the past two years. Rice-sized Esmeralda, Ash, Tricia and Tara— plus (!!!!) a beautiful serene dream of union and joy where the two of us dipped and waded together in a very somewhat familiar parkbenchesque setting (ahhhhhhhhh). In each of these nocturnal vignettes my feminine cohort were pointing like an airline stewardess to something inscrutable and cubist drifting in the tang-hued horizon above like a banner.
Finally the night before I was canned, I harbored a dream where I was hanging out with dear ol’ David Hale (ie, Big Dave, whose spirit you’ve met) and I was explicating to him that if I didn’t get out of the library now, I would be lethargically lodged in there for another thirty years.
I know, damn david and his damn dreams.
Which means that the bulk of us in our lifetime we will know more people, have more friends, more ex-lovers' more associates who make a concious decision to end their life than we know of people who die in car crashes.
Triple that figure if you are a writer and have a life in the arts.
It's just the way it is.
APRES MOI, LE DELUGE
This is how it all went down :
The night before Uncle Mike insisted on buying me about fifty dollars worth of groceries. I declined. I tried telling him that for the first time in my euphemistically christened so-called adult life I was finally able to make ends meet. Finally able to pay rent and bills and still have 100 bucks left in the bank between paychecks. Finally able to make fiduciary split-ends meet without having to prostitute myself at the shylock spiritually-grubbing palms of the “money lending stores.”
I was finally developing into the man I felt destined to become.
I had broken up with my beautiful socially vivacious and spiritually sensual rock star girlfriend simply because we were both partying too hard and drinking our health comatose in calculated bacchanalian 30 hour binge-club sessions every weekend. I was falling in love with cooking (developing an almost obscene obsession with Rachel Ray youtube videos— note: you tell anyone you die…)—cooking vegetables and rice three times a week, brandishing the spatula like an alchemist and a wand as I delved into an olfactory ocean of spices and scents. I was watching my caffeine intake. My alcohol consumption was cut like a maladroit high school athlete trying out for the Varsity squad. I was working out. Color was inching its way back to my physique. My visage no longer looked like something stale and aspirin-like you’d find leftover and expired in the back of your grandmothers’ bathroom cabinet. I was spending more time with my own novels. I started bloggin’ again (mostly on the recital blog). I could not for the life of me stop reading (the greatest perk of my former place of employment was being completely draped in vertical sea of book spines…) I was reading books on art again. Books on theosophy and quantum universal interconnectedness. Books on different religious movements. Books on chakras and alternative health. Books on history and science. I was watching every documentary ever shot by Ken Burns (his Lewis and Clarke’s Corps of Discovery still coerces the ducts of my eyelids into teary applause). I was revisiting the gentle parkbench purity of Children’s literature (my goal of reading every Newberry award winner was sadly truncated at three). I was falling in love with the fashion in which language backstroked across the openness of a fresh page.
Finally the pulsating independent image of the independent man I had yearned to become—the image I had carried around in my chest like a fetus for all these years was coming to fruition. Like “Aslan’s mane” trusses of my hair were finally dripping down into the topography of my shoulders again, granting me the semblance of the vagabond hippie who once, in another woods-between-the-worlds-lifetime so it seems, somehow stumbled into a certain lecture at a Baha’i retreat in Wisconsin and felt the metaphysical anthem of a sunrise applaud the interior-lining of his chest as I fell into a pond of words exuding from the horizon of your lips as everything inside my flesh some how opened like lotus opens when kissed by a slither of the most pure light.
I was myself again. I was growing and giving and giving and growing and then, somehow, all shit broke loose and I found myself out of work during the Christmas season within the geometrical confines of a staggering economy that was all too reminiscent of a late-stage HIV infection—moribund and bleak and spiraling out of control with a feeble chance of ever returning to sustainable viability whatsoever.
(2008)...excerpted from a letter to a friend---
Perhaps the only word that aptly fits the pending description of this fiasco is a word my ex-girlfriend would always use which I’ve honestly hated. If, in another plural universe, in another prismatic reflection of time space, where I've been married for ten years and are financially struggling and we are in bed together (I have short hair cause I know that’s how you like it) and you are clipping your toenails and I am trying to get some sleep cause I just clocked off from my shit job and we keep addressing each other as “honey” so often that our last name could pass for smuckers and we are having the inevitable verbal altercation all couples-in-it-for-the-long-cross-country-on-camel-back-you-haul have which is “I-love-you –so-much-but-I- can’t-stand- it-when- you-say-or-do-this-in- public, honey.” I would confess that I, in all candor, I can’t stand it every time you use the word “Heebie-jeebies.”
Something about the phonetic assonance of the word has never registered well with my nervous system. It sounds like the medicinal diagnosis of a frat boy who decided to dry hump a beehive as part of an obscure drinking game ritual. Or the sounds echoed from ones lips as they try to swallow a dusty 7-up bottle laced with sand paper only to have it crunch into rough triangular shards of glass halfway downs ones esophagus. Heebie-jeebies. Or the high-pitched shrill an uppity- high class British lady would make while playing bridge at a country club, who while halfway sipping her tea, lets out a shriek as she realizes that she just sat her plump British arse on an ear of petrified corn—the kind reserved for hog feed.
Worst off about that word, just seeing the bumper-car jellybean syllables of the word in print makes me shudder.
Every time the word appear chat framed in the museum opus of our infinite IM conversations my body would flinch and titter in an almost epileptic echo. The veins skirting from my shoulders to the tips of my fingers would twitch, my shoulders would harden and wretch in pinched momentary electrocuted uncomfort, that akin to sticking a copper penny into a European outlet.
A word I despise, but no other word can do justice to everything that follows:
(NOTE: If I were David foster Wallace here is where I would insert a footnote detailing to you the emotional torment of writing and reenacting this stuff. But in the immortal words of the seedy 20th century French philosopher Maurice Blanchot (or was it Bataille???) “He who knows not how to hide, knows not how to love.” So like neighboring Wilson from Home Improvement, allow me to detail the following shit cloaked behind the security fence of language and sound.)
Was walking into the library that night and seeing that the fucking swischer sweet craggily countenance of the Dean of the department is seated next to the bitchy Human Resource tramp as I entered the library for my shift and the fuck-face dean sternly says, “David, will you come with me please.” (a scene I keep on mentally revisiting and am trying to shake)….
Was (as I found out later that night) the policeman sent to the library to escort me off the premises---after being handed a slip paper informing me that “serious allegation of sexual harassment were made” against me. I never saw the campus police (who are my friends) that night. After being mandated to turn in my keys and my ID, I asked that I take the back door of the building out (didn’t want my student workers to see their boss like this).
Was hearing about a campus wide e-mail sent the following day to everyone in my department informing them that I was not to be allowed on campus and that if I was spotted anywhere near the vicinity of the university authorities were to be contacted immediately (hard because my apartment is right on campus).
Was spending the first few days throwing up everything inside my anatomy. I couldn’t keep water down. Heebie-jeebies was the sweats and dry shakes. The hives. The inability to eat or to digest food. The shock. The feeling of betrayal.
Was the absolutely “disgusting” allegations that were made against me (I later found out at my resignation meeting with HR). Allegations of having sex with high school girls in the library basement. Allegations of having sex on my desk with student workers. Allegations of leaving work on my break and getting high with fellow students. Allegations that I was bi-sexual and hurtled myself at every beautiful person that walked inside the building. There was even an allegation that the dual conniving “bitches” took from one of my novels—a scene I was working on one night on my own computer and a scene where I they claimed I “forced” people to read. A scene that had nothing to do with sex at all ( the girlfriends dad is at a Barbecue and is wearing an apron that says, THE BEEF IS IN MY PANTS BABY—nothing like manipulating words for your own means)
Was hearing that they fired five of the student workers (all male) I hired over petty-self-indulged reasons, firing them simply because I wrote them recommendations. Because I was close to them. Because I was there boss and encouraged them. Because (as I later heard) they had the balls to stand up for me.
Is every time you turn on the television all you hear about is the damn economy and how you had modicum financial security one second and absolutely nothing the next.
Was the feeling of complete hollowness and complete loneliness— being broke, the complete confusion of not knowing where to go next or having no clue how to get there— the feeling that you are 31 years old and everything you have ever touched in this lifetime has disintegrated in a hasty overturned ashtray of failure.
Heebie-fucking jeebies-fucking jeebies-fucking-jeebies-fucking-jeebies.
*** *** *** *** **** ***** ***** *****
After working for Barnes and Nobles for four years in the late nineties I started working at the library in February 2000 (got the call that I was hired after a traipse up to good-ol-woods between the worlds Mattheison state park that same afternoon) and then left late that summer to travel and live the life of a nicotine-addled peripatetic poetic bohemian bum for a few years, returning back to the library as a student work in Aufust 2002.
I won’t go into much of the actual termination of my employment—my exile from the building in whose basement burrowed within in a secluded carrel while, thanks the probably unhealthy literary influence of Kerouac and Wallace, I made the transition from poetry to prose and wrote my first short story in 1997 (entitled, “The Drowning”—blawh!!!) the building where I’ve pissed out thousands upon thousands of pages of fiction, watching with giddy school boy adulation as the tips of my fingers stroked the keyboard like a frenzied classical pianist, living for the moment where time becomes frozen and distilled as the heart begins to leak out the blood-letting yearn of passion, the Midwest January country road dusty lavender sunset that is the creative impetus of our collective craft.
The building where my freshman year in high school I was working on a research paper and a beautiful side-pony-tailed college girl grasped my wrist and wished me best of luck and then I overheard her tell her friend how fucked up on Tequila she was going to get over the weekend and I thought, “Yes, that’s what college kids do. Drink.”
The building where, later in high school (before the pervasiveness of the net) I would walk to on Sunday afternoon after church and comb through the art and book sections of the NY and London Times, the brick of hope lodged in my chest of a world fraught with aesthetic potential that for some fucking reason escapes us as we breech the altitude of middle aged sunlight, Pandora trying to snip at the fairy of hope and lock it back in the unbridled security of the boxed potential of youth.
The building which housed the decimal addresses of my best friends. The building where I was to spend hours after hours browsing through the labyrinthine shelves of beautiful books in the basement. The second floor which housed a commodious periodical section and where we had every issue of the New Yorker, bound and on the shelf, dating back to the 1920’s—oh the liquer adds!!! Seriously, I could show you the issue where Sylvia Plath debuted her first poem or where an excerpt of Catcher and the Rye, first appeared (written in the THIRD PERSON) a decade before the novel was published.
Incidentally when I was canned I had 98 books checked out (the limit was 100), while my immediate boss and fellow gossipy supervisors (the most gossipy, fat asexual human beings you can ever imagine meeting, like fatuous hens who can only give birth to empty eggs, cohorts in my career they took pleasure in crumbling with their words) monopolized all their time playing video games on line, the ample-torso’d director of the library living vicariously through a slim-cyber variation of herself on second life.
If I was guilty of sexually harassing anything in the library is that I couldn’t keep my fingers off of books. I could not help but undress the cover of every book I found in my possession. Could not help but unhook the alphabetic bra-strap of every sentence I visually fucked. Could not hide the enthusiasm I felt being ensconced around pagoda stacks of books on a daily basis. Or how it felt walking home from work at three in the morning, a heap of books cradled in my hand like a new born, going home, cracking open a few beers, and slipping into the inky trenches of a delicious narrative.
The week leading up to my dénouement I was psychologically tortured. I had this weird belief that I was going to be arrested (????) and began to metaphysically quaver every time a cop car sidled past me on the side of the road. I had a hard time keeping food down. I tried not to think at all about my financial situation or how I was going to get money to pay rent or that I just spent 600 bucks on Christmas presents the weekend before I was canned. I divided my time that week at Uncle Mike’s and my mom, mostly sleeping, trying not to think about the bleakness of my future. I battled interior demons and dragons whose scales insinuated that everything I had every done in my life was equitable to failure. The prayer of Ahmad became my best friend (good ol’ Nightingale on the branch of eternity) and I found myself supplicating on the caps of my knees like a plastic holiday flavored nativity shepherd, asking God simply for peace and for closure regarding the sick situation I found myself in.
But it was Uncle Mike who gave me the best advice. “When you find yourself in the room, just imagine Abdul-baha sitting in the same room with you, smiling.”
And that’s what I did. Smiled the whole damn meeting while facing the trigger-happy disparaging nozzle of the firing squad. It’s hard for me to talk about what happen inside that meeting with HR. since the allegations (rumors) make me uncomfortable to dwell on still to this day. I made jokes, “I guess when God closes a door, He opens a guillotine.” I denied all the allegations. Rather than dragging it out, or getting the law involved for a wrongful termination lawsuit (something my sister thinks I should have done) I resigned. It was emotional and boss, who admittedly has a hard time communicating with people began to cry. Still I held my chin up at the latitude of a halo, seeing the Masters’ smile across the room without squinting and yet, somehow, at the end of our meeting everyone in the room was shaking my hand like I just got offered the job promotion.
But still I was broke and shit, had nothing ‘cept the lint off my dreams to live on.
And here’s the moment where I tell you that I fucking lost it baby. In the slurred delusional haze of splintered abandonment and hurt that all human beings (particularly those who fucking feel and fucking give and fucking sacrifice and fucking love) from time to time are ineluctably chosen by the gentle wings of the concourse to endure— the maelstrom meltdown from the lips of sanity, the capitulation of your own creativity and joy yielding into the shaded psychological chasms of unrelenting darkness and loss.
The moment where I confess to you that I felt I had emotionally miscarried my one chance at becoming a viable, functioning human being. The moment in mid-December where I found myself in my apartment, naked, my long hair bleeding down into the blades of my shoulders like something feral that has just hatched from the shell of the earth.
The moment where I tell you that I just couldn’t take it anymore. The feeling of hardcore failure mingled with margarita salt of cheek-bone tears as I found myself frisking the tips of my fingers through my kitchen cabinets, fishing out the longest, thickest knife I could find (the type reserved for chopping thick aortic clumps of garlic) duck-taping that knife to the side of the fridge like a silver beak or a horizontal stalactite, a spike to the most selfish, solipsistic act a loss vagabond soul could ever indeed contemplate.
The moment where I confess to you that I sat for three hours in a yogi-esque posture, the arrow tip of the knife pointed in my direction like the needle to some compass indicative of perennial defeat, the mathematical emblem for “lesser than” sign piercingly drooping down into the ashen desert of my chest as I contemplated sloughing the corporeal attire of health I mistook for a fleshy turtleneck harboring hurt and pain.
Why didn’t I end it that fearful night in my apartment? Three reasons.
Chiefly was my alcohol intake. The more I drank the less suicidal I became, so of course, I continued to drink. And drink. And drink. Drinking my way into a medicated pasture of emotional hollowness bruised inside my chest. As I look back with hackneyed “hindsight-is always-20/20” proverbial nostalgia over the last three years, the one thing I wish I could have controlled more is my alcoholic intake. I always looked at myself as being a jovial lush, getting shit faced, twirling around my apartment listening to music, quoting Rumi and Whitman, being witty, smiling as my thoughts breezed into debauched avenues and hedonistic highways of creative thought. The wrenching truth is that I can count on the number of fingers on one hand the number of days over the past three years when I didn’t wake up and have a few beers before getting into routine. I’ve always been a big partier (at least since the 99 after break up with Vanessa, my longest relationship of 13 months, discovering a bunch of fellow creative bohemian booze guzzlers, going out and partying all night)—And I would get bombed at least three or four times a month for the next couple of years. I didn’t start drinking (addiction) every day until May 2005. Since then I couldn’t imagine watching a movie without having a beer, doing housework without harboring a beer in tandem like scepter, writing sentences without passing out at my desktop after only a page ten hours later, taking a shower (love cracking open the icy cylinders of a beer while baptizing my limbs in a hot shower) watching sports, reading a book (even going as far as correlating certain chapters of Johnny Tremain to certain Sam Adams patriotic selections….or correlating certain high-alcoholic and uber-hoppy IP Ales to chapters in the Narnia chronicles, thinking that this is what Mr. Tumnus imbibed by a hearth in ye olde Caspian pub…pathetic….)
I realized I was addicted to alcohol—really addicted, when I realized that I couldn’t keep beer or hard liquor in the house without drinking it. Having an unopened bottle of beer or an uncorked bottle of wine was like having a book on your shelf unread (ahem—dance to the music of time). I could not have a bottle of Jack Daniels or a 24 case of Guinness in my fridge for over a day without pounding it, usually first thing after rolling out of bed with an acclimated hangover. Over the past three years every weekend has been a bacchanalian blur, brachiating from barstool to barstool, drink to drink. I began to avg at least 5-10 beers a day. On the weekends it wasn’t uncommon for me to drink 30 beers over the discourse of a day and night, waking up, cracking one open before swan-diving into the spontaneity and bliss that alcohol avails. My girlfriend last summer, Tara, is a huge partier and barfly butterfly. Weekends were reserved with the two of us going on a 30 hour drinking binge, being crazy social whores, going to seedy bars where you can still smoke in, passing out comatose somewhere and then taking a day to recover. What Tara couldn’t understand was how I kept on drinking so much during the week. I then began to understand that I couldn’t comprehend why I continued drinking so much during the week—nor could I stop or control it.
It’s been nearly six months since I got canned and my alcohol predilection has yet to wane. I’ve been smuggling beers into the basement of Uncle Mike’s abode and when I took the trash out last week felt almost embarrassed by the rapidity at which I have been imbibing as of late. I don’t think the Concourse is planning an intervention any time soon. More of what I hear the concourse telling me is something like this: If you continue on drinking “You will try a lot of cool beers and have many more moments of laughter and joy. You’ll feel the transience love which alcohol floods into your veins. You’ll have sex with many more beautiful out of this world females that will end in crazy drama.”
But a sobering truth ( lid off of casket sobering) is that labeled onto each beer I for some reason feel compelled to chug on a daily basis, the feathers on the wings of my ambitions get anchored a little more from the reality of my life as an independent author ever happening. I’m a good writer when I’m drunk, but the very painful truth is that, when I’m sober, some days I’m untouchable. And that, as far as the last four years is concerned, if I would have put a fraction of the energy and devotion into my writing (which is already frissoned with devotion and jolt) as I have with my drinking you’d be able to google my last name right now and read my Pulitzer prize acceptance speech. It’s not easy baby (that’s part of the fun with it). Writers often have a long incubation period before they hatch and it hurts more than I can fill into the measuring cup of the alphabet when I hear of contemporaries such as asshole Eggers or (royal fuckwad) Foer who hail from extremely disgustingly-privileged Northshore backgrounds who have been wiping their asses with two dollar bills their entire life and get published in their mid-twenties. Kills me. Boys who had the luxury of not working shitty jobs and monopolize six months on their family’s yacht where the entire focus was writing something that entitles them to a life of even more privilege.
Second was the OFFICE. When I was drinking 30 beers a day, each beer serving as a life vest I purchased the first four seasons locked myself in my apartment and just laughed (and drank) til I cried. I bled tears during diwali. Copped a banana flopped feel during the Gay witch hunt. Could not stop laughing during the dundies.
In short, had I not had alcohol or the office, I don't know if I would have made it those couple of days when I felt worthless.
They were my rod and my staff.
The third reason why I refrained from supplicating the emotional cogs of the factory of the flesh into the arrow head of the knife was a quote that kept propping into my head over and over again at that moment like a Kindergarten round. Last October I blogged an-infamous dvb “loooooooooong” letteresque blog epitaph for my late mentor David Foster Wallace and for one of the first times in my life I received flattering fan mail afterwards. One e-mail was from Justin, a buddy of mine of Iranian origins (former student worker at the ‘brary) and a modern fiction junky. In the DFW essay I quoted a brilliant long essay that former poet laureate Doanld Hall had written 30 years earlier about his experiences partying with the late Dylan Thomas (who was drinking something like 50 beers a day the last eight years of his life---and essay again I found when I was browsing through shit at the brary…sniff) in the essay Mr. Hall laments that “The poet who survives is the poet to celebrate. The human who confronts darkness and defeats it is the most admirable human.” When I read Justin’s e-mail it said:“Seriously, good writing man, and it made me feel like you are our second coming as I read it. I particularly hope you are the one who confronts his darkness’s and becomes the admirable human.”
And that’s the mantra I juggled somewhere in the rafters of my psyche oscillating like a carousel that night. That the writer who somehow survives is the writer to celebrate somehow.
And that’s what I did.
Tried hard as fuck to survive.
I have succeeded so far..