My house--this house--is only so big.
And, for better--definitely not worse--I quickly realized that the invite list I was compiling for my upcoming Holiday Party was growing increasingly unmanageable. As it was I ended up inviting somewhere close to 60 or so people (including dates and kids). And, while my house is spacious and open, I could easily see that 60 people would start to get a bit cramped.
Now, thankfully, gone are the days of keggers where it wasn't out of the question to have a hundred and fifty people crammed in a two bedroom apartment on a frigid February night. Those days went out of style with hippies and Ultimate Fighting Championships--that is to say, about ten years ago.
So, I had to stop with the invites. I realize there are some people who may be reading this who will say to themselves--"Hey Al. What the hell? Why wasn't I on your list?" To those folks I can only say I'm sorry and you are all invited to my Springtime Fiesta, which I will throw when I can utilize my ample yard and patio. I promise I won't serve the leftovers in my freezer from two nights ago. Honest Injun.
My intentions were simple: get some mojo going with an influx of friends, show off my house, have some great food, and provide a nicely stocked bar, complete with a celebrity bartender.
Yes, I had booze at my party.
I'll tell you why.
I'm not doing any of this by the books. I'm not even doing it in complete sentences half the time. What I am doing is writing a new book. The old book is tired and out of date. It doesn't allow for societal changes. It doesn't allow for the idea that drinking in excess will become absolutely frowned upon in social settings amongst people with even a modicum of civility. It doesn't allow for the advancements in medicine which show how absolutely devastating the effects of excessive alcohol use is to almost every organ and tissue of the human body. It doesn't allow for advancements in therapy which can point a person in the right direction and--through some serious introspection and reflection--allow them to lead a life full of joy, wonder, comfort, laughter, and security amidst a world full of the one thing that can trounce all of that.
It doesn't allow for me.
And that's where I parted ways with The Big Book, and started writing this one.
And this is the chapter where I recap how someone who is an alcoholic can live and breathe next to the same dragon that burned down his last house. That dragon is ever close, but it is giving him another chance to co-exist in a new picture-perfect environment, as long as he doesn't fuck up.
As I was saying ...
The phone started ringing just as I was finishing up picking the music for the evening.
"Hey man. Are you still having a party? You know there's a snowstorm out there, right?"
"Damn right I'm having a party! And I bought extra tupperware for all the prosciutto wrapped shrimp, scallops in butter sauce, and gruyere stuffed mushroom caps that will be left over if it's just me, the caterer, and the bartender."
"Okay. Just checking. See you at seven."
And there were the people who, sadly, couldn't get out of their driveways because the snow had accumulated too much, on top of the fact that they had just got the power restored to their homes a day or two before.
Conversely, there were also the people who came down from Vermont--an hour and a half--with their well-behaved infant and a smile on their faces.
And then there were the people who said they weren't coming, and then miraculously showed up with an appetite for good food and drink that made me smile a big smile.
Inspiration comes in many forms.
But before any of these people showed up, I had visions of it being a very quiet night.
I mean, it was a snowstorm. It was ugly out there--I had just barely made it back from a four hour shopping excursion that should have taken two. It was dangerous. It was messy. It was frigid.
It was classic New England.
My invitations had stated that people should park in the bank parking lot next door. I was worried that the tow trucks would have a field day, and those who did make the trek over would have an extra detail or two to take care of before they could leave. Thankfully, they played along and no one had any problems.
The caterers showed up at six with some chafing dishes and food to start prepping. Tim, the head chef, came over and turned on my oven. That was the first sign that this was definitely happening.
Then the bartender showed up: Gerry.
Yes. Gerry Souza, the most important man of my, and many of my contemporaries serious drinking period (read: our twenties). He used to tend bar at The Baystate Hotel back in the Nineties, and I could write a book about that place. So I'll suffice to say that he was, and is, and icon to me and to many of my friends.
He was ... perfect.
In the picture above, he is preparing some egg nog in a punch bowl nestled inside another punch bowl filled with snow. Classy? Yes, I should say so.
I showed him where everything was--the Jack Daniels, the Grey Goose, The Captain Morgan's, the wine, the beer, the ice, the egg nog, everything. And he got to work situating his area. The bar structure was on loan from the rental center, although I may end up investing in one. It was nice to have it.
And then came the knocks at the door.
Stuntman Steve, Michelle and our friend John and Christine's daughter, Madeline were the first to show up.
Then, Terry and Michelle and their beautiful baby, Remy, crossed the entranceway.
Then, Biker Chuck, Phil and Marcia (The Straubersons), Greg, Lisa, and their daughter, Julia, Henning and Lesa, Paul "Muskrat Flats" Brown, Roy and Sheena, J.J. and Jocelyn, and Linda and Silas (my wonderful neighbors of eight years) ... and before I could put the most recent forfeited coats in my coat closet I turned around and looked ...
... and my house was full of people.
And they were eating and drinking and excitedly talking to one another ... and it was officially out of my hands.
I was having a party--a successful party--in the middle of the first big two-day storm of the season, on a Sunday, and the absolute last thing I could imagine doing was having a drink.
I was given an assortment of housewarming presents--some I opened then and there; some I put under the tree (which was peacocking with aplomb). And everyone who came through the doorway had a big smile on their face. An honest, holiday, well-wishing, congratulatory smile that said, "I am so happy for you."
The food was stellar.
Gerry was the hit of the night.
And I even made an awkward toast--"I'd like to thank everyone for being here ... for making it through this storm ... and I'd just like to say ... this may be the shortest day of the year, but it will be the longest memory I have ... thank you all for being a part of it ... Cheers!"
And I turned the music back up and the party continued.
I got to show off the pictures of my mom in the beauty pageant from forty five years ago. I got to bring people upstairs to where it's not quite done for lack of furniture, but it was still nice to see. I got to marvel at the fire in the chimney that had decided to play along just at the last minute, as I was kneeling there--almost praying--in my Hugo Boss suit, blowing on the recalcitrant flames and hoping for the best ...
... and meanwhile, my best friend was at the hospital because of a food allergy.
He's allergic to nuts.
The caterers made this food in a kitchen that uses nuts--lots of nuts.
And he ate before he asked about it.
And sadly, he had to leave and spend the night at Cooley Dickenson Hospital being pumped full of Benadryl and Prednisone.
He's okay; I just saw him last night.
We spoke earlier in the day and I told him how I had given away a bunch of the booze that was left over (and there was a lot left over), but not all of it. I still had a full liter of Grey Goose, most of a .750 of Captain's, and a bunch of beers. He told me I was crazy. He asked how I could possibly just have all that stuff there--stuff I used to love, lust, and crave--and not worry about drinking it.
I said, "You know how you went to the hospital because you put something inside you that you shouldn't--under any circumstances--put inside of you--something that you'll always have to be aware of, if you don't want to risk serious consequences ..."
And he knew exactly what I meant.
And that's how I live my life now.
I have my limitations. I have my restrictions. I have my allergies.
I have my friends who came to wish me well and to celebrate almost a year of me doing the right thing (though it was not talked of much--on both sides--as was tactful and polite).
And I have my enemies who sat there grinning at me on the countertop waiting to be consumed by people who are not nearly as susceptible to their adverse effects as I am.
I mean, just for drama's sake, I might as well take one of the flaming logs out of my fireplace, put it smack dab in the center of the couch, throw away the fire extinguishers, unplug the alarms and block the hydrants if I--even for a second--thought it wouldn't be a big deal for me to have one drink--not that I ever once in my life had one drink.
I love my house.
I love my life.
I love my friends.
And I don't--for one second--think I can live like I used to.
It's not an option.
It's an ending, and I hate endings ...
And on that note ...
Thanks for reading.
PS: Please email me your address if you would like to attend my Springtime Fiesta.
Only one condition ... no nuts allowed.