Monday, October 22, 2012

I Want to be a Barfly but...

..
Visions of F. Scott Fitzgerald and wife Zelda frolic in my brain as I say, “Yes” with enthusiasm.  My new friends at the senior housing project where I live now ask me to join them at a neighborhood bar.  Don Draper makes it look so elegant on Mad Men, and I remember myself as rather worldly as I sat in Sunset Strip bistros sipping drinks, plural, in the 1980s. 

So, me Mitch and Serenity go drinking in a bar.  I've marveled since meeting Mitch at how well he can hold his liquor.  From the time he gets up in the AM until he passes out at night, he drinks, Mitch admits to it with zeal.  All day long he pours cheap whiskey into cans of ginger ale, or if he’s in bars, drinks beer (surreptitiously amplifying the effect with long island ice teas downed at the side where no one is looking). 

In fact there’s a couple people in this HUD subsidized building I moved into last June whose capacity for consumption of alcohol is astounding to me, especially since my aging cells can’t handle more than three ounces and I pay for it for days.

My new drinking friends are around my age and still able to drink a lot, in fact when I was introduced to Mitch when I first moved in, they told me he was “Drunk Mitch” because there’s another Mitch in the building who drinks but not as often as Mitch. He doesn't mind being called Drunk Mitch as, “that's who I am,” he announces, and for that I give him credit.  Where most drunks get mean after long periods on the bottle, Drunk Mitch just keeps smiling and is very soft spoken, helpful even.  Forgets what he just said to you, but always ready to be helpful.  When his girlfriend goes home after weekends, he shows up at my door late at night, but I just don't let him in.  He’s usually too drunk to remember it next day so I forget it too.

With Mitch most the time sits a woman eight years older than Mitch, and the two are bonded like old husband and wife though they insist there’s nothing physical going on between them.  They've both lived in the building less than a year yet their bonding is deep and visceral.

They say about each other:

He’s my memory.
She’s my conscience.

Or it can be the other way around. 

He’s my conscience.
She’s my memory.

Mitch and Serenity in her seventies go every Tuesday to the suburban restaurant bar a couple miles from here to drink and smoke cigarettes for hours on end.

Then Mitch always drives home afterwards. 

Mitch has never gotten a DUI. 

The ladies in Thursday night bingo here in the senior building gossip about Mitch and Serenity but no one really knows for sure how far their relationship goes.  I wonder too.

But Mitch and Serenity are definitely drinking buddies.  Often on a Saturday night and any given weeknight, they sit in the garden, Mitch pours whisky into ginger ale Serenity mixes generic kahlua into vodka with milk, the two tilt cups and talk for hours on end.  

There is much laughter and tinkling glasses in their lives.

I wish I could join them.  I want to be a barfly but my body won’t let me.  Two sips into a third drink and I can’t even swallow any more.  My body just rejects the stuff.

Well it is poison, as in in-toxic-ated.

Still I feel like I'm missing out on a big party.

Last Saturday evening soon after I returned home there was a knock on my door and I peered out. 

There stood Mitch.

Well actually there wavered Mitch.  Like he was in an earthquake proof building during -a six-point-oh Mitch wavered back and forth on his bony legs in front of my door. 

In his hand was as always his can of ginger ale laced with whatever whiskey was on sale at the discount liquor store, and as always you could smell whiskey within a few feet of him. 

As always Mitch had a grin on his face, his girlfriend had gone home, now his eyes were blue and twinkling outside my door, a façade that likely opens doors of women all over the senior building where we live.

But not mine.  He wavered there at my door with a grin on his face saying, “hey you wanna” and not finishing his sentence.  He wavered there, sort of stumbling, until he got the message I didn't wanna and his grin widened into a little embarrassed wiggle as he stumbled down the hall.

Thank god my body rejects it. 

Booze really ain't that glamorous. 

*************

Their lives have more tinkling glasses than mine

Mitch and Serenity handle it so well and make drinking look so good that I tried to join them for a while when I first moved in.  I started putting vodka in my lemonade and hanging around the garden with them on Saturday nights.  I went to the bar with them a couple weekday afternoons.  I got brave and let Mitch drive me home after he’d downed at least eight ounces in two hours one day last week. 

I gripped the seat.

Mitch cruised his Malibu through the suburbs leaning back, a cigarette flat between his teeth, one arm sunning in the car window.  At a stoplight he grinned at me said, “Now you've had a taste of Mitch’s world,” then maneuvered in traffic, switching between lanes and kids walking home from school with aplomb. 

Mitch looked like a Doonesbury drawing. 

He makes the whole drunk lifestyle look good. 

Visions of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nelson Algren and Charles Bukowski may dance through my brain but after a few weeks of following Mitch and Serenity through the garden of the senior housing project and around the neighborhood bars I could not button my jeans, so I took all my booze over to Mitch’s apartment and stocked up his cabinet. 

I ain't going to try anymore to be a barfly. 

Besides I bet Fitzgerald would have written a lot more a lot better if he'd gotten sober.  
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