Nice to know I’m in good company. Now I know some of you are asking, and I certainly can’t blame you, “Hey Stew, why do you drink so much, kiddo?” To this sagacious question I can only reply as follows:
“Lisshen. I don’t have prinking droblem. Ash shore macho nation. You mush be hellushinating. I think you’d bedder get your eyes checked by a hockey player.”
It is the supreme act of egomania to quote oneself, and for that I must take a deep, sciatica-inducing bow (for those of you who don’t know, sciatica can be a royal pain in the ass. I’d be surprised if poor old King Lear himself didn’t have it, at least by the end of his eponymous play, after the shit had hit the fan so much it formed a veritable shit-storm).
But seriously folks, as comedians from the Poconos would say, that is a good question, and I can’t deny a certain perennial affinity for alcoholic beverages. We all have our weaknesses, and I have them all. I can’t pretend I am immune to the folly of the base human desire for intoxication. I may even in fact be an alcoholic–gee whillickers! the word itself makes me want to run out and buy a case of beer!–and I know that, as the folks in A. A. say, “Denial is not a river in Egypt.” Besides, what can you expect from a guy named Stew? It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, for Christ’s sake.
Having said that, a certain portion of poison maybe necessary to help one (in this case, “me”) get through the loneliness and boredom of a stormy marriage, at least at times, even though at my age I have to admit by occasionally drinking more than the doctor ordered (“one glass of red wine a day is a nice palliative for heart disease”) I’m playing with firecrackers. So be it union. Last night before I went to bed, after quaffing a beer here and a whiskey there and a bottle of makkgeolli (Korean rice wine) there after writing “a moving tribute” (according, at least putatively, to Michiko Kakutani, whom I call Mitch since we’re old pals from way back) to His Highness–or else His Lowness–the Reverend His Majesty Senator Doctor Gary Coleman, Esq., I even popped two naproxen pills to fend off the formidable headache that would no doubt form during my one-man slumber party, a snore-a-thon galore.
That was after watching the Mike Leigh movie Another Year, one of the most depressing works of art I’ve ever seen, in the leisure of my wife Jina’s absence, since she took the opportunity to spend the night at the church library, no doubt getting her tail inspected by the Lord Himself, whose cartoon portrait hangs on the door of the inner sanctum of that sacred tiny building. The “artist” who depicted Him must have been a student of not only Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci but Fritz Freleng (I’m afraid I’ve got the wrong name there–I’m thinking of the old Looney Tunes illustrator–let me get back to you on that one after I fortify my mortal memory with a belated Google checky-wecky–bingo! Tex Avery is the name I was fishing for), or else Robert Crumb or Basil Wolverton, as Herr Savior is portrayed as a veritable doe-eyed runt with a beard, like some kind of hirsute, infantile, immortal hermaphrodite.
“That’s my Jesus!”
And although I may be addicted to alcohol–drinking is a stubbornly chronic habit I’ve never been able to shake for more than several months at a stretch, and that was years ago–I asseverate that my wife is addicted to her belief in Jesus as the ultimate savior of all humankind. Now, I love Jesus as much as the next straight bloke, but worshipping him to the degree that she does feels not only silly but inappropriate to me since, as I’ve said before in this column, the poor chap is probably dead. Nothing against dead people, but treating them like divine celebrities is not going to make them any less dormant, listless, or immobile (had to take the thesaurus out for a spin).
Then again, I’ve heard that the good people at Alcoholics Anonymous insist that the only way to kick the drinking habit is by believing in a higher power, a phrase they might even capitalize. Who knows? Maybe they’re right. The only problem is that in all my searching I haven’t been able to find one. The closest I’ve come is Shakespeare, or maybe Van Gogh, possibly Martin Luther King, or perhaps Fred Astaire. I used to believe in Nature, but now I realize She’s probably the most heartless murderer of all, not that I don’t still worship and respect Her as I have done since I was “sloshing around in my diapers,” as my old teacher Mr. Caswell used to say. (To be fair, he said “your,” not “my.” I can’t imagine him saying that, even with the doubtful aid of excessive gouts of stout.)
I know a true Buddhist isn’t supposed to preach, but in all my dabbling in religious, philosophical, and spiritual matters over the years, I’d say that the Buddha, mortal fellow that he was, was gifted with an insight that I can only call inspirational. I can’t pretend to possess the moral fortitude necessary to be a bona fide Buddhist, whatever that means, but I respect his admonition to steer clear of intoxicants as a hindrance to clarity. And for what it’s worth, having a clear head is what it’s all about.
Admittedly, it’s childish to drink behind my wife’s back just because she says it’s bad for me and I want to defy her orders and be disobedient (diaper change, please–by the way, there are two anagrams of the word “diapers”–PRAISED and DESPAIR–“Oh, aren’t you a good baby! Oh, shit-–you’ve crapped yourself again!”), but I can’t help believing in Dionysus when the sun goes down. She says God doesn’t want me to drink, which may be true, but if so, He should rewrite the section in the New Testament that has Jesus turning water into wine and getting the disciples soused at the Last Supper–“My children, if you think you’re going to be hungover tomorrow, don’t feel too bad. At least you’re not going to be nailed to a cross from Grossman’s!” (Sorry, but I couldn’t resist plugging that product; I’m not even sure if that hardware store even exists anymore; their cryptic motto was: “There’s a little Grossman’s in everyone; there’s a little Grossman’s in you.” Don’t ask me how they knew so much about the universal details of human anatomy.)
Finally, before I leave you to your own dukkha, now having to ponder my Dalai Lama of a dilemma in addition to your daily obstacle course, let me express a note of regret and a tinge of sadness for our fallen hero, Scott Ritter, whose story I read about in the New York Times magazine on line yesterday (sorry I keep plugging them; no, they’re not paying me, but I have to admit the Times is a remarkably informative source of free information; I hope they’re able to survive the demise of the paper newspaper–if that isn’t redundant, I don’t know what is). Although I’m a fan of his for what he did, standing up to the nefarious Bush Administration and calling them on their interminably repeated twelve-pack of lies about “weapons of mass destruction” (gee, doesn’t the United States make, sell, and use those? Naaah!) and writing so eloquently about our endlessly questionable foreign policy habits (speaking of self-destructive addictions), I have to admit that his foibles come across as creepy and weird, even to a weird creep like me. Still, I don’t think it’s fair to incarcerate the poor man. He didn’t hurt anyone, and he obviously needs help. Then again, I might be less lenient about it if I were a woman, and I can understand the judge’s decision not to grant him clemency, considering his lack of contrition.
But labeling him a “violent predator” is an unfair smear; sure, the dude’s a pervert (and that term often boomerangs to those who use it, and if you don’t believe me, consider a handful of right-wing evangelical Christians who’ve gotten caught with their pants down during the long hiati between their self-righteous, hypocritical, homophobic and sex-hating sermons), but he never raped anyone, and locking him up for a crime he did not commit feels dead wrong.
After all, what is this, Minority Report? If it is, all you overly judgmental judges out there can suck my Philip K. Dick.