Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Day 9: Drying out with the propitious Tom Inman, filching furniture from the Tartan Inn and (oh yes) after all these years, the creature known as Chop-Chop makes a cameo appearance…
Status: It has been nine days, a six-pack and a half of bartering carbonated pilsner for the creative promise of the individual I will become. Each nanosecond of self-stitched sobriety feels like I am alighting golden shards of an isosceles-configured triangle after wending my way through the cataclysmic underworld of a Hedonistic Hyrule (boy was that a Legend of Zelda analogy that fell a few super-size shrooms short of a full grown Mario brother. Can you tell I’m going on 45 minutes of sleep in the last 24 hours?).
Physiology: The heart palpitations have completely stalled. The internal Richter scale chronicling the sputtering-tote of hourly nerve-addling shakes has also almost diminished. I’ve come to embrace the sifting sand-length enervated egg-timer naps that full blown insomnia avails as the new eight hours and with the exception of the tightness on the left side of my face that I’ve been bitch-blogging about since DAY 2 I feel totally fine. There is molecular ennui and there is overcrowded lecture hall boredom, but there is also the scent of an apical spring afternoon where the aromatic clover of freshly severed grass mingles with the lingering sniff of seasonal perennials beginning to raise vernal forearms out from the crust of the planet, doting suburban sidewalk knolls in bouquets of color, wild lavender, bruised plum, dappled peach.
There is something mystical about the number nine. Nine has been crowned the number of completion and the number of heaven and the number of the world that is to come. In Hinduism nine is the number of Brahma, the creator of galactic consciousness. In Greek mythology nine in associated with the 9 anthropomorphic muses stewards of art and poetry. There are nine fruits of the spirit mentioned in the bible and Jesus died on the ninth hour on the cross.
In her book Wheels of Light teacher Rosalyn Bruyere identifies nine chakras. There are nine concentric circles in Dante’s hell.
9 is the highest single numerical digit. It signifies the number of completeness in certain religious inflections and before the designation of Pluto as a non-planet there were nine astronomical objects orating the solar wink of the sun like perfect elliptical and gravitational amens.
Dante saw his muse Beatrice only twice in his lifetime. Once when he 18 and she was 9. Once he was 27 and she was 18. Dante later said of the most famous muse in the Western canon that “She is a nine because her roots are in the trinity.”
Likewise an embryo spends nine months in the womb for it to fully develop into a sentient entity ready to be born.
To give birth to something new for the first time requires the number nine.
And today I have been sober for exactly nine days.
I was thinking about all of this as I was ambling through the spring arteries of West Peoria on an afternoon where the sky was the color of bottled windex and everything smelled like sun-dried linen and watered hyacinths sprinkled with fallen magnolia petals and there was always the nasal hum of a lawnmower purring somewhere in the background as if it needed to be fed. I was thinking about how the number nine was integral to growth and to being reborn and how part of the reason I embarked on this 40 day pursuit of alcoholic celibacy (of self-discovery) was because I wanted, needed to be reborn and to hatch and to come to peace with my past and interface and buy a beer with the creature I yearned to become.
I was thinking about all this, dandling a cigar while waltzing down Waverly avenue when I was waved into the Tartan Inn by my good friend Tom Inman.
When I first moved back to the double-you pea (what I call West Peoria) four years ago the Tartan Inn was my favorite watering hole. The outside kind of looks like a russet brick kiln used to fire up the rapid transformation of alcoholic bliss one receives like a Papal blessing upon entering the establishment. For about three years the bar just plain sucked and a lot of the faithful Tartan Tipplers just refused even to go in. When Tom and his buddies Joe and Brad took the place over last autumn they completely refurbished the ethos of a working-class community tap. They introduced craft beers to a neighborhood legion of bars whose clientele was so beechwood aged you could make out the Clydesdales hooves on their respective livers. They installed craft beers like Milk Stout, Helles Style lager and Lakefront IPA on draught (oh, and Guinness, which I remember paying six dollars per can for when the previous owner appropriated the joint). I can go in and have Belhaven or sample a lil’ sumpin’ by Laguanitas or booze up on a prohibition-pacing Batch 19 or (my favorite) slam a high-alcoholic content yielding Arrogant Bastard Ale until both my temperance and my wit becomes illegitimate.
If the bar were a late-80's female cartoon rock star protagonist it would be a Jem (sic).
Even though the pub had not yet open this was the first time I had been inside a bar (much less one that I’ve pledged my eternal area-code allegiance to) where I did not have a tandem beer in paw to compliment my tab. Last time I was inside the Tartan was one week ago Saturday two days before the fast convened and I slammed three Arrogant Bastard’s and about six Pride o’ P-town PBR’s (two dollars, ties with Getaway for cheapest PBR on the bluff) and then went home and finished my daily Sam Adam’s Summer sampler quota and then passed out at my desktop and then went to work.
We remove the overturned bar chairs from the top of the table near the window. Tom is sipping a craft beer. I am sipping a cup of coffee.
“So, what’s it like being in a bar and voluntarily choosing not to drink?” Tom inquires.
I tell Tom that this is the first time since I turned 21 almost fifteen years ago, that I have been inside a bar and not had a beer, ibid, been inside a bar and not had twelve. I tell Tom that in a way it sucks. I tell the proprietor that being ensconced in a bar like this and not drinking is like having the woman of your dreams spread her legs open like butterfly wings in front of your face and telling you to inhale while she is simultaneously groping her husband’s hand as he reads off their yearly six-figure gross income.
Tom laughs. He knows about my almost Lenten sojourn of succulent sobriety, of going forty days sans the sauce. When I first told Tom about my anticipated odyssey of giving something I love (ie, drinking) to find something burrowed inside the fizzy near-empty keg of my chest he went behind the bar and handed me a blue chip.
“I want to be the first to buy you a beer once you complete your adventure. I want the first beer you have once you complete your trek to be here at the Tartan.”
We continued to barter crazy bar drinkin' stories. Tom quoted (verbatim/rote) the opening page from Hunter S. Thompson's FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS from memory. I've known a lot of bartenders' who have considered themselves well-read and I've never met any who was able to quote the opening page of Fear and Loathing from memory.
I told Tom how, three years' ago I stole some of the funriture from his establishment because I was madly in love and writing poems for this girl and of course, that is what you do when you are madly in love with someone is just steal furniture all the time.
I pointed at the one solitary remaining oak swivel-seated barstool leftover from the previous incarnation of the bar.
"We kind of met up here only it was after one of my poetry readings that she didn't attend and she sat right there (point to corner under Erdinger sign) and the next day I came in and told Rachel that I got drunk in here last night and lost my lucky White Sox cap that I always wear when I write and when Rachel went into the back room to look in the lost and found I inexplicably scooped up the chair she sat on like scooping up a toddler and placing him in the back of an SUV and then hauled ass out of the bar all the while holding the chair."
Tom laughs. He tells me that the previous owner said that one of the chairs kind of just disappeared one day.
Tom asks me to tell him more about the girl. Her name is Chop-Chop.
Chop-Chop is more Mary Ann than she is Ginger. More Veronica than she is Betty. More Fraggle Rock than she is Princess Fiona. More Jane Gallagher (always keeping her checkers' stationary and saluted in the back row) than good ol' Sally Hayes. And perhaps more than any other female I have ever met, the simple splash of her shushed smile and the scuttle-wisps of her laughter in close proximity to my chest have compelled me to create some of the best poems and literary epistles of my career.
Some of the poems I have written for her have been published and taught in college classrooms.
When I was invited to perform at PEN's Dirty Laundry Lit in Hollywood last Oct (what an honor) the set I chose was culled from those days when we would role-play text all night (whatever happen to that French maid outfit Chop-Chop???) and then I would go into my writing desk in the woods and just eat out the vaginal sauce of the keyboard, thinking of her smile, thinking of how I could cast the supple sentence of the human alphabet into the vowels of her breath, the time-signature of her smile, the tequila sunrise of her eyes.
If you would like to read about Chop-chop click on the lavender color of her name and scroll down until you see a picture of Annie Hall.
In a weird way we knew each other from another lifetime ago and for a lot of reasons it just didn't work out between us. She painted me a picture of the barn I'm always talking about purchasing once my novels start selling. I read her poems on BLACSTARSEA radio and one poem, a silly rhyming poem I've only read in public once called Chords, that starts out, "You are Adam's first hardon prior to the fall/the tennis courts where Woody Allen met his Annie Hall/ You are the sunset in which I so long to bask/ the final shot of whiskey found in the bottom of my flask." was mixed on air live by the wizardry of the great Josh Wills. It was everything I've ever wanted to tell her promulgated live and I referred to is as my boombox heralding 'Say Anything,' moment for those of us who fell madly in love with the concept of unrequited love in the late-80's.
Only she didn't hear it because for some reason the radio wasn't working at her work that night.
It was weird. When I first started writing poems for Chop-Chop I kept having these dreams that we were living on the same street. I was living on Heading avenue and she was living with her mom way out in bumfuck Wheatfield where all the hicks live. What's weird is that we've actually lived on the same street twice before. We both grew up on Sherman only different vectors. Oddly we crashed on McKinley in Bartonville at/or around the same time. I have at least eight chronicled dreams from the summer of 2010 where we are living on the same street again and just laughing and being goofy. I even have one dream where she was wearing this tiara-like thingy and bought Jumers (???) and she was living there alone and invited me to move in with her only I kept saying, "I can't honey. There's not enough room."
Time is weird. The bleating vagaries and the distilled vat of emotions constituting the unerring furl of the human heart. My roommate died suddenly and I needed to find a place. I took the first one available cause it was close to work. At the same time chop-chop bought a house. It turned out we were on the same street about six houses down from each other.
Chop-Chop then started dating an acquaintance of mine, a marine and another wannabe writer (awful writer) from a group of local writers’ I used to hang out with (we should have started ‘Eskimo Brothers’ press). Waking up down the street from her after writing so many high-octane poems and seeing his gaudy red truck (which, one night when I was drunk I smeared cat shit over) parked in front of her house just perennially broke my heart.
But that is what happens when you give hard. When you fuck hard. When you love hard.
You just get broken.
And you keep on giving.
"And that's the story of the girl I stole the chair for," I tell Tom, taking a swig of grainy dregs from the remnants of my coffee. When I finish talking Tom just looks at me as if to inquire how I got through relaying that personal anecdote to him without needing a beer. He asks how the withdrawal symptom’s were going. I tell him that I had the shakes bad. I tell him that I have this weird sort've inexplicable ache in my lower-jaw upper neck that I think I derived when I was just shaking for an hour straight one day but other than that I am fine.
"There's just one more thing," Tom adds, as I am ready to go, "What if this sobriety thing you're on really works. What do you do if you don't want to drink again?"
I look back at world's coolest neighborhood bar proprietor and simply smile.
And this happens as a rule in philosophy: The single thing proves over and over again to be unimportant but the possibility if every single thing show us something about the nature of the world.
I left the Tartan inn and went home and wrote for a couple of hours and couldn’t crash. I still felt the jilting twitch in the side of my neck, my flesh excreting reams of booze saturated molecules form the last decade and a half of almost non-stop partying. For some reason the narrative voice inside my head told me to go back to the Tartan, get a glass water, tip the sexy bartender working five dollars and just sit at the bar and write notes for an upcoming entry.
As I was exiting my front porch I looked down the street. It was Chop-Chop.
She was wearing beige shorts and a white top dappled with little flowers and she was mowing her lawn, her hair pinched back in a subtle knob buoyed in the back of her head like a brim to a crooked halo.
She smiled when she saw me and I ran up to her and picked her up and twirled her around like a pinwheel.
We bartered niceties and exchanged colloquials. It had been six months since the last time I saw her. She looked somehow older. I asked about her job. About her trips. She asked about my writing. About my recent project to quit drinking for forty days.
It felt good to hear her quizzical laugh brush against the coastline of my body again.
As I feel when I am around Chop-Chop, I honestly can’t take my eyes off her. Can’t stop losing myself in the scent of her smile.
“You drinkin’ yet?” she inquires.
I tell her no. I tell her that today is day number nine. I tell her that today was the first time I was capable of hanging in a bar, hangin’ out with a bro while not cracking open a beer.
“It was crazy, I went for this long-ass hike yesterday and found an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels like it was planted by fairy beer gnomes and I just opened it up and sniffed it and pour it on my hand as if I was baptizing my fingers with sour mash.”
Chop-Chop smiles. I ask if I can talk seriously with her for a second. She nods like a squirrel. I take her hand we walk to the steps and sit down and I begin to give her a lil’ backrub.
“(This is where I don’t call her Chop-Chop but I address her by her real name)., I really need to apologize for going so crazy over you back in the day and for deifying you and making “us,” (whatever we were) something more. I know I was crazy and possessive at times and I really need just to honestly apologize to you. I’m sure all my crazy pinnings made you feel awkward at times.
She doesn’t say anything, this is where I call Chop-Chop by her first name again.
“But I really need to thank you. I’ve never met a human being who was able to crack open the yolk of my chest the way your smile has. You inspired countless poems that has not only helped my career but has made other people feel very happy and very loved at the same time.”
We sat on the lip of her steps for a long time in the perfect spring day and just laughed. When I got up to leave I kissed her glazed forehead as I always do. We stood up from her steps and we kinda had our arms wielded around each other as we walked to the edge of the lawn as if on a pier.
While we were walking, almost cathartically I realized two things:
I realized that I was completely over the tortuous three year poetic projection of ever being with Chop-Chop romantically; that I had finally accepted the failed tautology that we would never be welded as one consummated digit of flesh, that I would never wake up in my autumnal country dream barn with her chin and her cheekbones cradled like a napkin at Versailles in the geometry of my arms, that I would never lose my vision in the good wedding china porcelain parchment of her forehead while she was asleep and then kiss her forehead and tuck her in with a flannel blanket and brew coffee and write for a couple of hours before returning to our bedroom doorway and watch her body sleep in embryonic postures and just smile.
I had found peace.
I also realized that although I no longer desired to be with her I was still madly in love with this creature, this amazing individual, this woman whose smile just undresses my chest and makes me want to bang out sentences of beauty all day.
I had found peace.
What happened next was just plain weird:
We were saying goodbye and I wasn’t looking at her and I was trying to get Chop-Chop to say the word ‘Pop-tart’ (don’t ask) and the next thing I know I feel her lips on my neck. The petals of her lips, moist, an ee cumming poem about spring.
I step back jilted.
“I thought you told me to kiss you.” She said.
“No,” I say, “I was going to ask you to do me a favor. I wanted you to say the word ‘Pop-Tart,’ just for me.
“Good, cause I don’t kiss strangers’ anymore.” Chop- Chop says, with a lil’ sass, as we squeeze each other again and then say goodbye.
I didn’t realize it til I was half-way down the street, but Chop-Chop kissed the exact area on my neck where I had been hurting the last couple of days.
It’s like she somehow knew how to put her lips exactly on the place where I hurt the most.
It is mystical day nine. I have been sober for nine days. It is the most refulgent spring day and I can still feel the residue of her lips on the side of my neck.
Life is good.