Dear K —
This old nondrinker notices just how much drinking is in your letter from this gala event you attended. How our society depends on the drink to grease the gears, to get us through. To get everyone involved through. It’s the non-drinker, trust me, they have no idea what to do with.
Somewhere out there someone has a video of you on their cell phone doing “Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools” in a conga line.
It’s customary to think we are now all in the chain of fools since we are all drunk. Have to be. Unless we aren’t getting through.
My father would be uncomfortable with me, who wasn’t drinking, while he was drinking. Finally when he was loose and relaxed enough, he’d cozy up to Sweetheart and me and take out his forever shirt pocket notebook filled with lumber scribbles and house information, cabinets to order for a kitchen job he recently measured up for a young couple eager for their first home, and he’d write down just what it would cost to get us tickets for an Amtrak train trip since he had been listening to us prattle along about a long cross-country voyage and it sounded like fun. Into the notebook went all the information, which of course looked like nonsense to him when he sobered up. Sweetheart still remembers this sort of sad testimony about the man. Nothing ever came of it, not that we expected any, the guy was just relaxed and feeling happy.
A close friend felt more like himself when he finally got me to drink down two bottles of red wine with him the very last time he visited here. He didn't know all I wanted was to see him smile. I must have felt somewhere in the soul this could be a last visit, although I would have never predicted it. My friend, to us, would live many years longer. He brought the two bottles of wine (which he drank the most from), Breyers ice cream, and a jar of unsalted old man peanuts that he seemed to relish. A loving gesture.
The stout Jack Daniels bottle sits on our kitchen shelf not quite polished off after a very long winter and chilly spring, along a dreary episode with the flu. Neither of us wanted any of the whiskey. But the bottle label looks dignified like a Harley Davidson emblem. We tried the hot-toddys and got nowhere with them but sipped them down like medicine. Sweetheart only once. Me every night for a week. I’m not sure it cut a lick but I gave it a try for the first time. It all still tastes like gasoline to me, as does wine, very foreign, but nothing matches the stuff I used to swill down when I was with a Chinese foot doctor for a few years and the concoctions he insisted I swallow I’m sure were part bark, roots, dirt, animal droppings, insect wings and bat guano. Pretty pink pig ear grease. The squiggles of homemade calligraphy down into my gut.
What will be left of us when the world is pulverized?
What I like about this Mexican hole in the wall restaurant where we eat is the owner is a limping long haired native with a wolf grin and wide striped shirt and he moves with the deliberation of a wise animal. And he owns the place and he’s owned the place a long time and he’s made it work. Congratulate the man! He hires women all in Spanish tongue, a bit of Indian shade to each of them, fluent in their tricky language and half may smile at you. Just their pacific faces beat out the entire history of most of the white customers that wait for their take-out orders. There is little to speak of from this white world except consuming, Facebook, cell-phone, money making, bill paying and a rent to meet. Where’s the beef? Where’s the trail? Where’s the music? It’s MP3 and throw away the vinyl, the field recordings, the personal heavy boxes of records, so many journeys. The real heft that instills a real memory. The stuff that makes you feel hurt in places and so you are alive.
I listened to Boz Scaggs during an interview, and there’s the Texan musician looking a bit wasted after decades of road life, making a music out of this young man heart of once upon a time and somewhere in his serious litany of remembrance he suddenly turns me on and I really hear and see and bear down with what he’s trying to get across. It’s almost like he has the partial heart of Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers sincerely deep down in his bones. It is true. I can hear the cadence and the calmness of the dust trail and animal ploving and how slow both the Red River and Rio Grande can flow. Only a true Texan. Like you, he says, he was raised in Oklahoma and Texas. I like these guys. Always have. He has a new and very popular album now out. Try to play it at your music store job. Put a Texas blues into the Texas hallways, trap it into the book catacombs, drizzle it down into the store cafe. Sexify the styrofoam.
I have a steel wall to build today. Happy days are here again.
all’s well, Bob