Die Like A Dog

From an interview with Saxophonist and artist Peter Brötzmann in Wire Magazine by David Keenan:

“The best decision I have made in my life was to stop boozing,” he reveals. “I would have died earlier than (Paul) Rutheford.” Near the end, Brotzmann was kickstarting his mornings with a cocktail of rum, champagne and mixer that he admits was “mostly rum”. “I didn’t drink beer anymore, I didn’t drink wine anymore, it just was booze all the time,” he says. “And then I got what Rutheford had in the last years of his life. I think you English call it gout. It starts mostly in the toe but it’s fucking painful because there are some crystals in the joints and so whenever you move it hurts. I came home from a tour in Poland, a cheap tour, everything was really shit. I was sitting at night and suddenly it was like someone put a spear through my leg. I called an ambulance and a young doctor came and he took his time and told me what he thought would happen: that soon I would not be able to move, that all the organs fall apart, that everything would swell up and shit like that and then it goes to the heart and you can say goodbye. He was a nice guy and very convincing. I decided that was it. I said, OK, I don’t move out of the house. I called my wife, asking her to bring the necessary things. It’s shaky, it’s sweating, you feel like shit really. But after a week it was over and then you just have to keep it in mind. I still have a bottle of schnapps in the house for visitors, and I don’t mind being around people boozing. When I’m on the road with the guys I tend to go earlier to my hotel because if they’re getting too drunk I don’t want to know what kind of shit I was talking back in the day.”

Props

Even once you get past the physical and psychic reasons to drink, there are the pathetic psychological reasons, like having a prop to hold in your hand.

I’m not really a go out to a bar for drinking and fellowship sort of guy, but I am a music club kind of guy. The idea of going to a rock show and not drinking a beer? Crazy.

My whole idea of “what is cool?” is tied up with drinking, or at least holding a beer.

Reading an interview with the members of X, John Doe drinking a long neck beer and leaning against the wall at the back of an LA club.

Not drinking, what do you do with your hands?

What do I do to cover up my normal fidgeting tendencies?

Water bottle? Nalgene? Smoke?

Systemic Analgesic

One of alcohol’s strongest selling points, per yer average Western movie dentist or surgeon, is as an analgesic.

I always think of the body as struggling towards equilibrium.

If you add another element to the balance, it adjusts the other way.

The body has a bunch of strategies for dealing with pain, mostly psychological.

However, if you pour in an analgesic pain reliever into your gullet every day for decades, your body probably discards a bunch of those strategies for dealing with pain, or they fall to disuse.

You stop drinking and everything just sort of hurts.

Even worse, habitual use of a painkiller allows you to damage yourself physically without noticing it so much.

Routine

250ml Sicilian Nero d’Avola.

Like I mentioned, I had a drinking routine.

I would come home from work, make and photograph a Savoy Cocktail.

Attempt to get it blogged.

My wife would then get home from her work, and we would have a beer together.

After which, we would go out for dinner.

One of our favorite local pizza places is always busy and we’ve been going since it opened. As there is always a wait, the establishment let’s you hang out in a nearby bar and then they come and fetch you when your table is ready. We’d usually have another beer and play some pinball.

Well, they take the excuse to leave work and get a shot of Fernet, Jaeger, or Tequila at the bar, then tell you your table is ready. It’s a cozy arrangement.

So, by the time we’re finally in the restaurant and our salad arrives, we’re feeling pretty toasty. Of course, we then order a bottle of wine to split while we enjoy our dinner.

In January, I was trying not to drink, and so my wife just got wine by the glass. “Oh that is very healthy of you,” was the comment from the waiter.

Lately, we’ve taken to not drinking before dinner and then just ordering a carafe of wine to split with dinner, instead of a bottle. The waitress was downright Sarcastic with her comment about Carafes vs Bottles the last time we were in.

And it’s not even that they are grumpy that we are spending less, as often they would just charge us for two glasses, and serve us a whole bottle.

It’s like we’re letting them down. And, of course, they are now charging us full price for a carafe of wine.

No Drinking Alone

Seems like a no-brainer, eh?

However, my method for the entire Savoy Project was to get home from work and get a drink made, photographed, and blogged before my wife got home from work.

Early on, especially when I would attempt more than one drink in a night, (hey, I don’t like to waste,) this was a disaster.

As relationship mistakes go, unbalanced levels of inebriating substances being consumed has to be right up there in the top 10.

Being mostly in the bag before your significant other gets home from work is kind of a disaster.

Heck, the opposite is even challenging, one partner trying to stay sober, while the other doesn’t quite feel as urgent a need for sobriety.

Well, anyway, the new rule is, no drinking alone, and it is a good one.

Tightrope Walking

From a Shakestir.com interview with Mr. Erik Adkins:

“It’s a tightrope. I always think there are two types of bartenders: those who have quit drinking, and those who are on their way to quitting drinking. There are a lot of bartenders I know who have quit drinking, because you can’t manage it. If you drink at work and you drink when you’re not at work, then you’re just a drunk.

“In my 20s, you’d say, “Only drink after the sun goes down,” but during winter, that’s a problem. Now, I have a glass of wine with dinner, I may split a beer with another bartender, but you’ve got to have those boundaries.

“There was a bartender I once worked with, he’d only drink at work — when he was at home and on his days off, he wouldn’t drink. Most of us do the opposite. It’s hard, because then you get home and you want to unwind, and that’s at least two drinks — or three — and if you’re not careful, you’re gonna wake up and be tired. I have a set wake-up time, so if I decide to stay up late, I pay the price, and that reminds me the next time it wasn’t worth it.

“When you’re in your 20s, you don’t have to worry about it. In your 30s, it doesn’t hit you physically as much, but in your 40s, between eating restaurant food for staff meals and consuming alcohol, there are some serious lifestyle issues with your health. My doctors laugh and say it’s an occupational hazard, like it’s forgiven because of my job, but it still has that effect on your triglycerides and your blood sugar and all that stuff.

“You’ve got to set your lifestyle for what you’re going to be doing in your 50s and 60s.”

An Inappropriate Relationship

From an interview on ShakeStir.com with Mr. Dale DeGroff:

“I did have a period when I was a heavy drinker, but I don’t know a single bartender who’s out there working as an older man who still drinks heavily.

“A doctor said to me about 10 years ago, “You’ve got problems—they’re not serious, but your liver is stressed. You can keep drinking the way you are for another 10 years and then you’ll probably die; or, you can stop drinking for a while, and if you leave your liver alone and let it recuperate, you can probably go back to moderate drinking.” And that’s what I did.

“There comes a point—your body will tell you—that you either do what I did, or you take the tradeoff and die when you’re 65. I had a customer at the Hotel Bel-Air in L.A., who got exactly the same ultimatum I did at the same age. He’d sit at the bar and talk about it, and for a year he tried to stop drinking; eventually he said, “Oh, f*ck it,” and several years later, he died. He made the other choice, and he was happy—drinking was too much a part of his life, and his life wasn’t pleasant without it.

“Every bartender who’s a heavy drinker will have to make this decision when it’s time.”