Life Lessons & Drunkenness
It was October 1974 and it was the last time that I got drunk. I was visiting my friend John while he was working in Syracuse, New York. He had a one room efficiency apartment and every night, he and his co-workers would go out and get plastered. This was a Friday night, so the rule was start drinking earlier and end later.
We went to a bar called “The Mad Hatter”, the juke box was blarring “love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain and Tenielle – that’s the only thing I can remember about the bar because I wake up every night at 3:00 a.m. screaming with that particular memory.
I’ve never been a heavy drinker and I can’t “hold my liquor” very well. That night, inertia got the better of me and I drank. At 2:00 a.m. they threw all of us out so they could close the bar and John and I staggered to my car. We decided that I was the less drunk of the two of us so I should drive even though I had no idea where we were and didn’t know Syracuse. It was a ten minute ride back to John’s apartment but about an hour later, John shook me to wake me up and asked “When did we get home?”
I looked around through squinted eyes and said “I don’t know. “ We got out of the car, dragged ourselves up to the second floor apartment where there was still some “meat sauce” on the range from our earlier feast on spaghetti and meat sauce and John asked “Would you like a meat sauce sandwich?” I think I said “yes” but I’m not sure.
He heated up the sauce, slapped it between a couple of slices of gummy white bread and plopped it down on the table. We ate and chewed and as we looked at each other, John got reflective and said “This really tastes like shit.” I took another bite and said “Yeah.” We finished our sandwiches and John had more meat sauce left so we each had a second which didn’t taste any better than the first.
We somehow managed to get to bed, slept, and as you certainly suspected, the next morning woke up in great pain. That’s one of my few clear memories of the event. It was horrible, disgusting, nasty and took me years to recover fully.
So following a day of misdeeds, mischief, the violation of numerous laws including some of the laws of physics and drunkenness, that I obviously survived, I did learn an important life lesson: never visit Syracuse.
It’s odd how life can present us with compelling, extraordinary, vivid, undeniable life lessons and we draw the absolute wrong lesson from it. Drunk driving isn’t a joke; it’s serious, dangerous, unconscionable behavior. I work at clubs and listen to people talking about the clever routes they need to travel to get home and avoid the police: what they’re actually avoiding is recovery and dealing with the reality that if they’re not alcoholics, they are abusing the stuff and need real help.
I’ve worked with women who had been involved in one abusive relationship after another, and in their pain they’d lament “Why do I always seem to attract these monsters?” The pain speaks loudly but the question is light years away from what I believe is the real life lesson: it’s not at all about why these monsters are attracted to you, it’s about why do you give them your phone number? Why are “you” attracted to “them?”
When the United States invaded Iraq, the popular country trio, The Dixie Chicks openly expressed objection to the justification of the action. In the invasion fervor of the day, the group was scorned, there were organized rallies to destroy their musical albums, and the few outspoken folks who agreed with them were labeled as cowardly and exposing us to even greater danger. As it turns out, it seems The Dixie Chicks were right, the premise of the war was false and motivated and supported by fear and a lust for retaliation, not on real need to go to war. What does “real need to go to war” mean anyway?
In 1973, I lived in Israel in the shadows of the Golan Heights on the border of Syria and Lebanon. I was there when the Israel experienced a surprise attack from it’s neighbors and as all hell broke loose,I had a front row seat. I wrote a letter to my Mom that she saved but has since evaporated, and I wrote in that letter something that I didn’t know exactly what it meant back then when I wrote it, but I know now. I saw planes knocked out of the sky, rabbis visiting next of kin, Mount Hermon on fire and I wrote that war, even for the best of reasons and noblest of causes is psychotic. My opinion hasn’t changed on the subject.
So the life lesson we gathered seems to have been that we must be stronger, more responsive, more deadly and destructive, more violent. God help the person who says otherwise. Do we need to suppress freedom of speech and even worse, freedom of thought? Is the only answer to increase military spending in order to protect ourselves? Our life lesson has been institutionalized hatred and institutionalized responses. Thinking and discourse is for sissies.
So life lessons. Don’t drive drunk, it’s really stupid and dangerous and if you know it – but if you do it anyway you need to get help: you’re an alcoholic. Constantly in horrible, abusive relationships? Look inside, question whether that feeling you describe as “electric’ when you first meet isn’t a misinterpretation of your body and intuition telling you to get the hell out of here. The feelings are quite similar and with practice (or association) easily confused.
Before we use deadly force, think, think, think. As an American, I believe the most patriotic thing you can do is exercise your freedom of speech. Speak your mind and keep it open. I became a big fan of the Dixie Chicks after that: it took guts and I admire that.
And for me, I never did drive drunk again. Never got drunk again after that night in October 1974. IIn truth, I’ve never visited Syracuse again since that trip, but I’ve managed to forgive the city for my stupidity.
What’s your opinion? I’d like to hear form you. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reply on this blog. Thanks for reading. Prof. Dave