Grumpy in New Orleans

Sober in New Orleans
(link to the full article on best of new orleans.com)
Jules Bentley on what it’s like living the dry life in Alcohol City

“New Orleans is a great place to drink. You’ll have adventures, you’ll be surrounded by witty, sexy people, and if you’re feeling reckless, the rabbit holes here go so deep that if a pebble or a person gets tossed in one, he or she won’t be heard hitting bottom for years. New Orleans has the best bars in North America; it’s no wonder the city draws thirsty cats from all over looking for a comfortably cool porch under which to finish dying.”

Yow! “Thirsty cats from all over looking for a…porch under which to finish dying.” That is some fine drama AND hyperbole.

“I’d always considered people who didn’t drink to be psychological cripples, at best uptight or constitutionally weak, at worst deliberately dull: individuals so afraid of themselves they cut themselves off from pleasure, limiting their palette to life’s beiges and grays. Five years sober, I find that assessment to have been accurate.”

And, oh man, that IS a dismal assessment, which I don’t really find borne out by my own experiments with sobriety.

“Identifying what triggers your cravings is a crucial piece of sobriety. To the degree that anything in my indolent lifestyle resembles work, being actively engaged in some activity, paid or otherwise, gives the desire to drink less space in my consciousness — but then, I don’t work in our city’s exploitative service industry.”

I would say, “Letting go of what triggers your cravings is a crucial piece of sobriety.”

“Without the armor of alcohol, I am histrionically sensitive to bad art. Lazy or uninterestingly inarticulate art, art that comes from a place of complacency, psyschologically dishonest art — all are intensely triggering for me. This makes post-Katrina New Orleans a minefield; I avoid St. Claude on gallery night.”

The author’s amusing grumpiness aside, there are some good quotes in the article.

“You’re around a lot of people with drinking problems — immersed in the tragedy of it,” he said. The presence of multiple Ghosts of Christmas Future has a deterrent effect. “With so many far-gone drinkers all around you, you’re like ‘Oh, right, that’s what I’d look like if I was drinking. Or that. Or that. Or that in a year or two.’ You have access to all the booze in the world, so it’s not as interesting.”

Heh. Word. No matter which side of the bar those ghosts are on.

Anyway, I’ll finish with this quote.

I spoke with Alex, a sober friend who works in investment and keeps a busy calendar of high-end, relatively exclusive Uptown social events. I was curious whether he felt being sober held him back socially or professionally. “Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s a non-issue,” he told me. “Most people really don’t care what’s in your cup, as long as you’re holding one.” To the contrary, he finds sobriety gives him an edge. “If I had two drinks, I would probably have 14, regardless of the situation. Even at an event where I should have been paying attention to the people around me, to get their business, I would get too drunk and forget their names. So I think it’s actually helped me in social situations that I’m sober.”

Demon Rum

Demon Rum, Charles McCabe
From his collection, “The Good Man’s Weakness”, 1974

“The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who knew one when he saw one, defined an alcoholic as ‘a man you don’t like who drinks as much as you do.’ And Mrs. Fred Tooze, president of the 250,000-member National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, a still flourishing outfit, tells us that ‘in every crisis Americans have turned to drink.’

“With these two pregnant reflections, I think we may have profitably get through the morning.

“It is generally accepted that Dylan Thomas died as a result of drink. He was a terrible drinker, would follow beer with creme de menthe, and that with rye. He drank with the clear purpose of getting drunk as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. His last terrible days were spent in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, New York, no more than a stone’s throw from some of his favorite bars.

“My own definition of an alcoholic is a man who allows the drink to notably affect the quality of his work. Some of my friends take a sterner view of the situation. They say an alcoholic is a person who lets the booze interfere badly with the conduct of his life, and specifically with the treatment of others.

“But there is a terribly hard question involved in accepting this broader definition. It is easy to enough to see the bad effects of whiskey and beer on the people we love. The insensitiveness, the childishness, the plain damned brutality. It is much easier to be a rotter when you have a bellyful. This is the part about alcohol that everyone, including Mrs. Tooze, knows about and talks about.

“A subject much less explored is how much genuine love for other people is liberated by the Demon Rum. Alkies are bound up people, usually little talented in the delicate matter of showing their feelings, especially the tender ones. They are suspicious of life because they feel, usually rightly, that it has not treated them well. They cannot give with ease.

“Yet somewhere within they usually want to give, and that is where the booze comes in. With all its acknowledged bad effects, a little ethanol tends to let you give and receive love.

“This is true of both the sacred and the profane kind. You may indeed want to have every chick in the place after the third martini; but you are also quite likely to say just the right things to just the right girl, which may result in something quite pleasant indeed for a period.

“So don’t rap anything too hard which provides a release from the prison of self. It has been estimated that the population of Ireland would be damned near the ideal proposed by the Zero Population Growth people, were it not for the emotionally liberating qualities of Guinness and Paddy’s and such. How many of my friends and relations would be around to tell the tale if the old man hyad not been fired up by Dutch courage provided by Irish booze.

“So, in balance, it is really quite hard to make a sound guess on the effects of booze on the feelings. These effects are indisputably good and indisputably bad, and it would require a sapient lad indeed, or some kind of damn4ed psychiatrist, to assign percentages and priorities to the good and the bad. There’s a little bit of each in it, as in everything.

“Whatever the point the good Mrs. Tooze was making in her WCTU statement escapes me now, and that surely is a bad thing, it is, it is.”

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.”

Garden Update 08-21-2011

Since we had the serious prune back things have been coming along.

Some signs of life.

Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ has started to bloom.

Agastache ‘Apricot’ is hanging in there. Dead headed flower sprouts and now doing better than ever.

The Greek Oregano is still doing OK. The one current casualty appears to be the English Thyme, which seems to slowly be succumbing to some sort of wilting rot.

The Bleeding Heart Vine has come back very strongly, with more light, it’s doing great. I’m also glad to see I’m not the only one in the neighborhood to appreciate it.

One of the Rose bushes has even decided to flower!

The Raccoons haven’t yet managed to kill all the Blue Star Creeper, by digging between the paving stones looking for grubs.

I think this is a Borage Seedling from some seeds I scattered a few weeks ago.

Probably I am the only one to get excited about non-vascular plants, but this is some volunteer Liverwort.

And finally, the Julep mint is not dead yet. A little floppy, I may have to prune the nearby Salvia a bit so it can get more light.