Monday, May 17, 2004

Legends of the Fall: “The most important thing to remember is that The Humans don’t matter,” Simon said.

As far as I could work out ‘The Humans’ was Simon’s phrase for the people who didn’t matter, so this was entirely circular. More specifically, The Humans were the Normals—people with jobs and families and who didn’t get drunk. Simon tried not to see them at all.

I learned most of what is worth knowing about the world from Simon, even if a good deal of it was wrong. And he was wrong about this. The Humans mattered. In fact, they were necessary. They were the canvas against which we used the jet engines drugs and booze to splatter our lives. They were the Athenians voting to kill Socrates. And we were, well, if not quite Socratic, perfectly willing to drink Hemlock or anything else you could pour into a glass with ice.

People who don’t know much about drinking think good drinkers are one of two types. Either someone who drinks a lot, or someone who drinks a lot of the time. In Simon’s opinion this confuses volume with velocity. Simon could swallow half a fifth of scotch in the time it took you to smoke two cigarettes, back before we knew it was too dangerous to allow people to smoke in a room where someone is drinking a half a fifth of scotch. He drank gin between scotches, if only to give the bartender time to refill his glass. Pints of beer evaporated under his gaze. Still, Simon was wrong about what makes a good drinker.

A good drinker drinks fast but he does it with implosive energy, the blackhole kind of reverse-polarity, anti-matter energy that sucks in everyone around him. At the end of a night he is not notable as the drunkest person in the bar because he is surrounded by the drunkest people in the bar. They are a mess, they have drank too much, and tomorrow they will feel an odd shamefulness about it. The good drinker is the same way except that he lacks one thing that they have: a cause for drinking. He has provided them a cause but he is his own cause, the prime mover of dipsomania.

Sexy English Girl: I think you should not romanticize drinking so much. Talk about something else please.

Everything else I know seems inappropriate.

Sexy English Girl: Nothing is inappropriate, honey.

Well, you asked for it. I am going to tell you the story about what happened when Thomas Jefferson cut down a cherry tree.

Sexy English Girl: I thought that was George Washington.

Indeed. Apparently there was a lot of it going around. Look, one day Tom Jefferson was a little English colonial doing colonial things like drinking tea and not getting lost in the woods when he saw a magnificent cherry tree. There was a serpent in the tree, and it said to him: “Eat one of these here apples.”

“What apples? Those are cherries,” Tom said.

“Same difference. They didn’t exactly have apples in the Garden of Eden either. It was pomegranates or something, I forget. Apple is merely a convenience. Just eat one.”

The serpents reference the Garden of Eden reminds you of something or another, you’re not sure what. But you don’t think eating fruit offered up by vague serpents is a good idea. “No, thanks. Got any tobacco?” you say.

Sexy English Girl: How have I suddenly become involved in this?

Oh, sorry. When you’ve written too much in the second person present it gets hard to write any other way. You just know that when Jay McInnery wrote that profile of Mr. Big the first draft began, “You walk into a restaurant with Mr. Big, who is talking about his ferarri and his supermodel girlfriend.” Can I keep on?

Sexy English Girl: How long have you been drinking?

The whole time. Any, what happens next is that Tom takes out an axe, and chops the tree down.

Sexy English Girl: Is that it?

I’m afraid so. I told you it might not be appropriate.

Sexy English Girl: You are an odd boy.

Fair enough. We live in an odd world. My father used to say, “Life is unfair.” I always imagined that this meant that life was the opposite of a fair, and the World’s Fair in particular. Instead of miraculous displays of the future of the world we were stuck with pedestrian reality of an all too local present. My father also used to say, “Up and at ‘em” every morning and I thought he was saying, “Up and Adam”—which I took to be a reference to Garden of Eden and the Fall. It’s all tied together, you see.

Back before KGB pills dulled hangovers and diet pills sped us through the day following a binge, drinking was something that could only be handled by the elite. And when I say handled, I mean taken to its devastating conclusions. It was a challenge to wreck your prospects through drinking because it hurt too much. You woke up in gutters, with your head split open. It was disgusting and beautiful, like a rotted peach in an old pair of addidas shell-top sneakers. Which reminds me of a woman who I met at Hi-Fi last night.

Sexy English Girl: Yes. Talk about women. I like when you go on about women. Like the proof of God on a spring day.

I like it when you speak to me in hypertext, but I’d rather not. I’m not very good with them, and they are always angry when I write about them. If I write about a woman I know, she thinks I ought not to have done it. If I write about another woman, she wants to know why I am writing about other women.

Sexy English Girl: That’s too bad. You’re a bit dull on everything else.