A friend of mine told me that when he was younger he would go into McDonald's and order a Big Mac, then when asked if he wanted onion on it, he couldn't reply. Staring at the puzzled McWorker, he felt his face glaze over, his lips fumbled to form the simplest words. Finally shaking his head, he would turn tail and run from the store. What cured his crippling shyness, crisis of existential choice, fear of onion-breath or whatever, was drinking.
'Alcohol saved my life,' he says.
When he drinks, needless to say, he is more than forthright about his likes and dislikes. Many is the time I've felt fear for my front teeth talking to him over a pint or five, but he and I are thrown together more than ever these days since his best friend and my cousin gave up the booze after twenty riotous years.
By her own admission my cousin is now too boring to visit and has even bored herself to the point where there are dark mutterings of 'this isn't going to last forever,' emanating from her direction. The quality of her work, it has to be said, grew more consistent if less inspired as she entered into that compromise by which drinkers, with astonishing complacency, forsake the creative period of their life for the managerial. When she starts drinking again at least she'll have the dough to spring for something a bit classier than the cider and sweet sherry that nearly killed her before. Let the day come soon!
Imagine all that aggression stuck inside you until you join some army of the righteous and go on to really fuck things up in the war to end all wars, the war against pleasure
Before people quit drinking, they should consider the legions of illnesses that are waiting to swarm into the place vacated by their hangovers. Keith Richards once said that the whole time he was a junkie he never had a cold. I seem to recall that William Burroughs cherished some theory that his cells were protected from viruses by a thin layer of heroin - no less scientific than supposing the influence of kindly gods who won't let us be sick with two things at once. All I can say on the subject is that when I'm drinking I never get a sore back.
I mention this affliction because, after repentant drinkers moaning about their drinking, there's nothing so common as the middle-aged chronic back bore. Well I'm here to say you can dump those osteos, physios, and chiros that charge more for their services than a round of drinks on the Hilton Rooftop. Bin that blister pack of Diclofenac that is rotting your gut quicker than a bottle of Belfast vodka. If you seriously want to say goodbye to back pain, get drunk.
About now it might begin to look like I'm working for the industry. Let me say that when I was playing my Christmas Day round of After Dinner Arguments, and the cards told me to name the biggest bunch of parasites and leeches in Britain today, I unhesitatingly said advertising agencies.
The town I live in is more than usually blighted by the mass insanity of 24-Hour-Party-People culture, cheap and colourful alcohol and its promoters across every type of media.
NO! I hear you say, 'There is Nowhere in Britain more blighted by 24-Hour-Party-People than... (insert here your burb, town, village). My town is Brighton, where, below the cheapest of the cheap hotels, there is a new stratum of hotels that are the only places that will take hen parties. When I step out my door for a bottle of milk I have to walk further than if I was buying a bottle of butyl nitrate... but even in Brighton we DON'T drink that.
Recently, on a Brighton street, I was handed a survey asking local people for ideas about dealing with the public drinking culture of the town. There was a weasely worded note – before I suggested a council-tax strike – that the bar scene is GOOD for business.
One box they seemed to want to me tick was that a sea-front street should be set aside, a sort of kettling for drinkers - in other words, a ghetto. I'm nervous about this in case the backlash against bingeing turns into a campaign of extermination and I'm worried it might happen on a night when I'm drinking there.
After sober consideration I crossed out all the options on the survey and wrote that public drunkenness is never going to go away while alcohol is the only legal drug (or the only good legal drug – see my ST piece on the terrifyingly interesting experience of smoking Salvia).
I went on to suggest that bingers don't actually enjoy drinking alcohol – at least they don't enjoy it as much as the daily tipplers, continental-style mealtime drinkers we are encouraged to emulate. People who drink a week's worth in a night, then don't drink for the rest of the week are more likely to give up drinking altogether. They give up out of shame, because the mess they make on that one night isn't as funny or forgiveable at forty as it was at twenty, then they ask themselves why they did it for so long.
The answer is they did it because there was no alternative and there still isn't – quitting is not an alternative, its the end and a tiny rehearsal for death.
People who drink a week's worth in a night aren't drinking for the sake of their digestion. They are drinking for release. It's an ancient practice that the Greeks and Romans dignified with the names of their most honoured gods. But the wisdom of the ancients has been erased from this argument. Hell, we can't even remember the disaster of American Prohibition.
Last week a New York TV crew was asking people in the street what they would most like to eradicate from the world - more than one person said alcohol. Fuck that. Imagine if all the heated arguments over bottles of wine and fights outside pubs never happened, imagine all that aggression stuck inside you until you join some army of the righteous and go on to really fuck things up in the war to end all wars, the war against pleasure.
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