Thursday, February 2, 2023

Breaking the Chain

Dry January over, I thought to return to my wicked ways.  That is what I have longed to do, have dreamed of.  I am not referring to drinking, necessarily, but the whole caboodle.  I've been a monk.  I know what that is about now.  No, it wasn't the booze, my friends. . . it was the entire adventure.  

I had lunch with my good friends yesterday.  Good friends that I don't see much and haven't since the "catastrophe."  One forgets the comfort of friends in time, but memory is rapid in its return when conditions change and you behave more as people have for centuries (link).  We sat at the bar, of course, on the corner that makes it easier to talk--one needn't turn a head so far.  There were three of us, though, so the one in the middle had to have the better neck.  She was younger, so it was an automatic choice.  

I felt free.  This was fun.  I could do whatever I liked.  

I ordered a Coke with my cheeseburger and fries.  

"Aren't you going to have a drink?"

"Later, probably."

I wasn't ready to give up my streak yet, it seemed.  No matter.  I was fueled by some other juice.  I was jazzed.  

The woman in the middle had brought in a small brown bag with handles.  

"I got you an early birthday gift," she said.  "I think you'll like this."  

I am not good at receiving gifts.  As with compliments, I am embarrassed and have no good response.   It is a problem generated by a mighty ego that has mishapen itself around doubts and self-loathing.  So I reckon.  

But. . . she was right.  It was a beautiful set of Palm Reading cards I had admired when we went to Grit City just before Christmas.  

"I remembered you liked these," she said, "so I went back and got them."

I'm not worthy of such thoughtfulness, I promise, but I was, without doubt, genuinely pleased.  

"Oh, wow!  I love them.  You know I love them.  This is perfect.  I will learn to read palms for drinks in all the expensive bars.  I will read palms and throw the Tarot.  I already know how to read Tarot cards.  I learned that long, long ago."  

The barmaid was amused.  Now that I was amassing "a crowd," self-loathing was relegated to the back seat.  Ego had taken over and was driving wild.    

"I'm writing a play about a palm reading huckster from Ohio," C.C. said.  "It is a true story I ran across while researching for another play I was writing.  The guy was a murderous criminal." 

"Now that's the shit," I said.  "That's some Cormac McCarthy territory."

We said "Donald Ray Pollock" at the same time.  

C.C. has won awards as a playwright.  He gets money for writing.  I am, of course, jealous.  Of course I am.  

My friend who still works at the factory is going to end that career this summer, she said.  When her father died not long ago, she inherited the centuries old family home in the midwest.  She is going to move there and write.  

"There are tunnels underground around the house," she said, "that no one has been able to explain."

"Ground hogs," I said.  

"Whistle pigs," said C.C.

"Do you know why they are called whistle pigs?" I asked the factory worker.  "My hillbilly cousin told me why.  If you whistle, they rise up on their back legs and look around.  It makes it easier to shoot them."

"That's awful," she said.  "I didn't know that."

My friend is a fan of the spooky paranormal and her familial home has the whole vibe.  I think she might have told me once that it was haunted.  I mentioned our friend from the factory who is becoming a bruja.  That is how I describe it, at least.  She teaches yoga and practices reiki.  She is learning to make potions and has started her own organic herb garden to facilitate that.  She takes instruction in cleansing chakras and auras and the like.  

"She practices reiki, you know."


I put my hands close to her arm and ran it up and down without touching it. 

"Feel that?" I asked.  

She nodded with a grin.

"I learned to do that when I was young.  It's eerie, right?"  I held her in my gaze for a moment.  "You don't believe in any of that, do you?"  She hesitated.  

"No, I don't 'believe' in it, but I don't necessarily 'disbelieve' in it, either." 

There you go, I thought.  These kids and their spiritualism.  

I have to admit that even the Cleveland Clinic which advertises itself as "The Number Two Hospital in the Nation," (behind Mayo), has information about reiki on its website (link).  I don't really know, but maybe that is why they are ranked number two.  

By now we had the barmaid's full attention.  The place was filling up with professional men and women eating lunches, doing business, making deals.  Their conversations were as stiff as their clothing.  The barmaid, however, was part hipster, a bit something else, big boned with spectacular, long, dark curly hair and an open, friendly face with beautiful, happy eyes.  She made craft cocktails, she said, here in this high toned culinary restaurant.  

"Where do you like to drink?" I asked her thinking I would garner some arcane insider knowledge.  But I was wrong.  She named a popular working class place that was not a craft cocktail bar at all.  

"I just like to order margaritas and get hammered," she said.  

So much for that.  But it was probably a good place to practice my new trade.  I'd consider it.  

My friends had ordered the chef's special lunch box which finished up with a sweet treat that today was a blended ice cream.  I, having ordered a cheeseburger, was not entitled.  The ice cream sounded good.  It was made with fresh squeezed orange juice from the old citrus shop next door.

"It's sort of reminds me of a Dreamsicle," she said.  

"Oh, man," I whined.  

"Don't worry, I'll bring you some, too," the barmaid grinned.  And I swear, it was one of the best deserts I had ever eaten.  

The afternoon was passing and my friends had to attend to other obligations.  I had my big assed Black Cat AeroEktar Liberator in the car and asked them if they would stand for a portrait.  

"Sure," they said with parallel enthusiasm.  I should ask this of more people, I thought.  Why am I so shy?

In the parking lot, the winter sun sharp and clear, I had them stand together as I fiddled with the dials and slides of the big camera.  I shot two negatives, one black and white, one color, as always unsure if the results would turn out.  

Later on, I drove over to see my mother who was not home.  She had gone to the eye doctor, she said later when I talked to her, to see about having her cataracts removed.  The interesting news was that the doctor didn't think she necessarily needed the surgery yet.  Surprising since my mother is ninety-one.  

Driving back from her house, I took a diversion to the liquor store to get a bottle of wine and a bottle of scotch.  I felt every inch a criminal sinner as I walked in.  I thought about the $500 or so I had saved in January as I checked out.  I'd forgotten how expensive liquor is.  

Back home, I poured scotch into one of my fancy, cut crystal glasses and went outside to make my cocktail portrait.  I sent it to friends who gave varied responses.  Then I sat looking at the glass.  I could smell the whiskey even at a distance.  It was familiar and strong.  After a long while, I picked up the glass and took a small sip.  I got a text then from my New Old Friend who was sitting outside a bookstore wineshop in her coolish part of town.  I changed my mind.  I decided to have the wine instead.  

Though I hadn't had a drink in thirty-two days, I hadn't lost a pound.  My diet, I'm afraid, had gone to shit. I'd been eating cheeseburgers and ice cream and drinking Coca-Colas.  If I were going to drink, I knew, I would also return to my usual, clean, spare and healthy diet.  I wasn't really hungry after lunch, so I decided to simply sauté some garlic, broccoli, mushrooms, and tofu with olive oil and a bit of tamari sauce.  Light, quick, and easy.  

And oh, man, the wine made it better.  Dining without wine is wrong, I think.  It is a necessary part of any good dinner.  

Halfway through, I got a surprise call from my New Old Friend.  Oh, my. . . this was a treat.  Of a sudden, I had a dining companion.  That is the other ingredient to a healthy meal, they say.  

We talked for quite some time.  She is back to work making travel plans for the rest of the month.  

When we hung up, the house seemed hollow.  I thought about the whiskey still sitting in the crystal glass. . . and decided not to.  Hmm.  

It was early, but I was winding down.  I cleaned up the kitchen, readied the coffee maker, and took myself to an early bed.  A book and a glass of wine.  Man alive, as they used to say, this was something.  I read until my eyes were heavy, sometime after ten, and I put out the light and went to sleep.  I did not wake up during the night, but my eyes popped open at what has become my standard waking hour now--4:30.  I do not stress about it.  4:30 is fine.  Later on, if I want to, I can take a nap.  Naps are fun.  Naps are good.  

I feel good today.  Maybe I will have an adventure.  I used to be good at that.  

Let's go see.  You come, too.

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