Tuesday, August 31, 2004

An Excerpt from the Opening Chapter of "Noontime Drunks" 

Noontime drunks are a thing, you know, a New York craze. Absolutely everyone wants to be one but it is tres difficult. You wouldn't believe the dedication it takes to be a lousy, stinking drunk by noon each and every day. Honestly, it requires a level of commitment comparable to, say, learning how to say Falujah or reading a the Style section of the Sunday Times without falling asleep.

Getting out of bed is murder, for a start. It all began with my best friend, Sully. He's the ultimate Lower East Side lad, since drug-addled, thin, unkempt and unemployed hipsters are the chicest thing to be here.

Someone heard he'd been drinking at the Cherry Tavern since high school, because that's what he told the reporter for the New York Post when he was arrested in there for buying shots for the Olsen twins. Anyway, it was rumored in certain circles that Sully had an arrangement whereby a can of Pabst and a shot of Wild Turkey would be placed on the bar for him at precisely 11:00 a.m. each day and suddenly everyone else wanted to be Noontime Drunks.

The drunk cannot be mild, it has to be stinking, like something from a Charles Bukowski story. He's the icon, the drunk to worship. It's beyond unhealthy. Getting drunk by noon every hurts, if you can get manage to pull yourself out of bed, which obviously you can't. Inevitably, Noontime drunks are talked and gossiped about endlessly. Every time you walk into a saloon for happy hour there's a guy at the end of the bar, hunched over a half-eaten corn-beef on rye sandwich and smelling like he woke up in a juniper bush. That guy's the noontime drunk. People titter and whisper, and if they know that once he had a promising career in journalism, they shake their heads in pity. Moi? I always buy that guy a drink on the theory that someday I may need someone to buy me a drink when I've spent all my money before most folks have finished their workday.

Anyway, according to the whispers, I'm heading that way myself, taking the deep, quick dive into dipsomania. I'll never tell a soul this, but sometimes before the bar I look in the mirror and see this guy who looks like me only older. And with less raw sexual energy than I'm pretty sure I exude.

Everyone thinks that the drunken life is self-destructive. The truth is that I owe every ounce of success I've had to drinking. A lot of folks do, especially writers. But no one dares say in case they sound like they've got a drinking problem. Even poor Scott Fitzgerald insisted he only wrote sober. Whatevs. Still, there are plenty of downsides. Like, you aren't going to be able to hold down a day job. But then again, working is for idiots and I love the smell of bars.

To be specific, last Friday I woke up on the floor of a particularly strong scented drinking establishment called The Village Idiot. The Idiot smells like a grave. A grave filled with corpses of people who drowned in bourbon. Even before I opened my eyes I could tell I where I was. The only mystery was why I was awake before closing time. That's when I noticed my cell phone ringing.

"It wasn't me," I said.

"We need to go to Bungalow!" yelled a desperate voice. It was Davis, who I worked with the last time I was working. I keep in touch with Davis because he has more money than Sully, which is to say he's got more than zero, the balance of Sully's bank account for the last two years.

"We're definitely going to get laid if we go to Bungalow tonight, my friend," continued Davis excitedly. Even though you'd think Davis, being a regular in the fashionable club and lounge scene, would know this already, I explained that a lousy drunk like me can't get into place like Bunglaow 8.

"Can tonight," he said.

I ended up spending the rest of happy hour trying to pull myself together enough to get past the doormen at Bungalow. Davis was a member of an exclusive concierge service that was throwing its New York launch party at Bungalow and he was certain we would have no problem getting in. Still, I thought that even his concierge service might balk at letting me in unless I could keep myself in an upright position for more than a few minutes. Davis was sure we were going to meet a lot of women that night, and I told him I didn't know how to talk to women anymore. At least, I didn't know how to talk to women who weren't in the business of bartering my money for their booze. He fed me all the pick-up lines he'd thought of recently, like "The voices inside my head told me to come over and talk to you." That's probably a good line if you're a well-dressed, obviously sane investment banker like Davis. If, on the other hand, you look like you may have slipped through the gates of Bellevue earlier that evening, it'll probably come off as creepy.

[Continue Reading"Noontime Drunks" by Manhattan Transfer.]