Every time without fail they would say the word money.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Day Three: Irish eyes are a smilin' and the ballad of ol' Cliff...
Status: somebody better call NBC Dateline since I’ve been clean for just over 48 hours. I have not gone two days w/out succumbing to a frothy cold one since about a week before St. Patrick’s Day in early March, about fifty days ago. What I wouldn’t give for ten pints of green beer and a bowl of Lucky charms being spoon-fed to me in slow motion by a buxom red-haired trollop wearing nothing but a Notre Dame jersey and panties, a lil’ U2 playing in the background. Irish –eyes collectively smilin’ across the emerald scalp of the planet.Physiology: It feels like I just slept on a nest of voodoo dolls. I’m having heart palpations. I’m tampon-wielding petulant. Since my body is flushing out all these toxins my urine is the color of a neon-glow stick at an underground afterhours RAVE. My flesh is also starting to itch; the epidermis is the largest excretory organ, my skin a slovenly wrapped bowling bin intermittently refusing to topple. I’m irritable. This imposed fast is stupid. When I taught junior high English a decade ago for some reason the word of the day was, ‘asinine,’ and the whole week the students’ went around the elementary schoolyard stating, “Man, you so asinine. This shit is so phucking asinine.’ Since it was an inner-city school and I had a pony-tail for some inexplicable reason I thought I would be the hip Stand and Deliver ‘YO! MTV Raps’ English teacher of the year changing formative lives by using Eminem lyrics to teach the parts of speech, asking the students’ to find the conjunction in the following phrase, “With my mind on my money AND my money on my mind.”
Every time without fail they would say the word money.
I decided then that I would rather be a failed writer than a failed English teacher.So freaking tired. The interior of my palms and the bottom of my feet have been itching-crazy like something is ready to peck out of my flesh brandishing a beak and strewn with damp feathers. For a couple o’ hours yesterday it felt like my ribcage located on the right-hand side of my body was sacked by a defensive nose tackle (my liver is all eli eli lama sabachthani on me), but after sleeping for 16 hours straight (having a dream where I was in charge of my mentor Garrison Keillor only he died, because I wasn’t paying attention) it seems to be fine.
Even though for several hours yesterday all I could think about was that this incumbent forty days of clean-living was nothin’ short of asinine.
It’s a couple of hours later and I’m less prickly, still sweating abacus beads of Hennessey. Went to my mom’s house yesterday and mowed and then compost-heaped and then cleaned out the garage. Normally when I crash ay mom’s I stop at the liquor store in the plaza on Garfield and buy twin six packs (usually what I call cheap canoe beer—Hamms’ or Schlitz or Old Style—Beers I remember being in grandma’s garage when I was the size of a good year tire) and walk home via Alpha Park where the nature trails harbor a rather ‘British Moor’ favorable appeal. There’s a part of the trail that wends into a fallow-dun flavored field, corn husks resembling shattered relay batons, soil tilled in capillary rows awaiting the incubating fertility of yet another harvest. There’s a spot where I would waylay my dreams, sip cheap beer, smoke cheap cigars and wait as the cue-ball moon arcs and lumbers across the blanketing tarp of the East before scattering home (beer in paw) beneath a cosmic freckle of stars.
It has been three days since I last bought beer.
Tomorrow will (shit-you-not here) be the first time I will receive a paycheck deposited into my bank account and not imminently celebrate the arrival of my income without stopping at a bar or a nearby gas station to pick up a six pack since I turned 21.
The last beer I consumed was at 10 pm on Mon, April 29th. Earlier that morning I purchased a six pack of hopfusion plus a four pack PBR tallboys. I was walking down Barker avenue and, from a distance of three blocks, could see the liquor store I so-devoutly stop in on a daily basis reel its aluminum gate open like a giant eyelid rousing from a wished-for sleep. Josh was working (josh wears this cool necklace that contains ashes of his late-mother around his neck) and I always ask him How mom is doing today and he always pats of above his heart pledge-of-allegiance style and says fine. After purchasing my libations I see ol’ alcoholic Cliff and discreetly turned the other corner. Cliff is toothless, a wiry spume of long hair that looks like he just stuck his guitar pick into an outlet at a Led Zeppelin reunion concert. In the summer time he walks around with his shirt off, past my house, towards his bank off of Madison Golf course. He looks emaciated, like a half-gnawed on tootsie-roll that’s been left in the sun all day to rotisserie. There is something about the semblance of his anatomy that looks like he would be featured on a from USA to Africa vignette about world hunger. His torso is about the size of a number pencil. When you look at his face the concavity of his sinuses are sunken and visible.
He looks just like a corpse.
And yet he still drinks everyday.
He is also brilliant and he has always been exceedingly kind to me.
When I first moved back to West Peoria two years ago I was smitten with this single-mom who lived across the street and three houses down from Cliff. She would check up on him every couple of days to make sure Cliff didn’t pass out and choke on his vomit. Cliff’s house is about the size of my mother’s garage. It looks like an ice fishing shed. Aluminum shards of cans sprinkled everywhere. He has drums and guitars and albums from the seventies piled in pagoda heaps. You can’t move when you walk inside. He sleeps on his couch. There’s a bathroom with no running water and beer cans in the sink so occasionally, if you walk down the alley between West Bluff Christian church and Calendar ave. you’ll see Cliff popping a squat outside and then walking with drunken yet calculative steps afterwards.
And he is brilliant. He’s always getting drunk and constructing shit. One time it was thruster. One time it was this drag-racing car. One time (shit you not) it was a helicopter with functioning propellers. The helicopter wouldn’t fly but he would invite all his beer drinking buddies into the cock pit, switch on the propellers and just drink beer smiling, cackling like they had box car seats at a NASCAR event.
Cliff does blueprints for all his projects and I’ve never seen anyone sketch blueprints as eloquently as Cliff. They look like something foisted from a private Da Vinci collection in Milan.
I used to stop by Cliff’s house every week and hang out with him. For a long time I would bring him beer until I realized that I contributing to his suicide. I offered to bring him food but he said he got, “one of them there LINK card.” One day he was standing outside waiting for his mom (Cliff is 53, his mom is in her 70’s). I asked him what was going on and he said that he was waiting for his mom to take him to the hospital. I asked him what was wrong and he confessed that he had been “pissing blood there for the last couple of weeks now.” When later that week I asked him how his tests went he told me that he didn’t go. That he went to get a 32 pack of Milwaukee’s Best and by the time his mom arrived he was already passed out.
I stopped seeing ol’ Cliff for a long time because I didn’t want to watch him die then I realized one day that I was drinking three times more per week than what he was drinking per week. That I had some talent too and that if I didn’t cut all this partying shit out/his daily drinking come twin decades of what is perceived of time I would be in a house with no plumbing and lots of beer and stalled dreams.
I had one can of PBR left. I went Cliff’s ice shack house for the first time since Feb ’12 and placed it in front of his doorstep like I was placing aluminum flowers on a grave.
I wonder if I will ever speak with Cliff again.