Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day six hundred and ten ... Party on.

I just got back from the package store.

Had to return an empty--yes, one empty.

A keg.

And get this: it wasn't really an empty at all; it was still half full. But I can't take credit for draining any part of it. Nor can I take credit for drinking any of the four and a half bottles of liquor, box or bottle of wine either.

Last Sunday I had a birthday party for my girlfriend, Jodi. I chose a select group of people from my friends, and she got to invite the rest which included among them her amazing parents. I had it at my house, outside, and had the whole thing catered by Holy Smokes Barbecue of Hatfield, MA.
I hired my go-to bartender, Gerry, from the old Baystate Hotel. I made peanut noodles a la the erstwhile Amber Waves of Amherst. I ordered some platters from Paul's work, Randall's Farm and Greenhouse in Ludlow. And I got a chocolate tort cake from The Side St. Cafe right here in Florence.

For the last three months I have been planning for this day, making arrangements and worrying myself silly that there wouldn't be enough room for people to hang out, or the music would be wrong, or that people wouldn't show up and there'd be way too much food.

But all that proved to be unnecessary in the end because, of course, people and tasks in my mind are way more difficult than they are in real life. It is the occasion that is important--the intent. And as long as you give people directions and tell them what time to get there everything else will just fall together.

But I had to make sure there was enough booze, too.

Funny thing, this little detail. I remember having my last party around Christmas last year. I bought a bunch of bottles of liquor and not much of it went. That was probably due to the fact that the party happened in the middle of a massive snowstorm and nobody wanted to be driving to begin with, let alone with a couple of drinks in them.

And so, at the end of that party I made the frantic choice to relinquish a 1.75 liter of Jack Daniels. It went with a friend back to the hill towns (he felt bad about just taking it and gave me a few bucks). I kept the Grey Goose and the Captain Morgan though. I put them above the fridge in a cupboard--they fit perfectly and it made sense logistically, and I remembered wishing I still drank because now I had the perfect place to keep my booze--yeah, right. Anyway, I only checked on them once or twice in the last eight months just to make sure that they were still there, and that they were as full as I remembered--they were.

And they stayed full for a reason: they weren't bought for me.

And so it was that last Sunday I went with Jodi to Liquor's 44 on King St. in Northampton, and we rapidly filled my car with alcohol. A half barrel of Sierra Nevada; six bottles of wine and one box; a liter of Grey Goose, and, of course, I replaced that 1.75 liter of Jack that had escaped my house last December. We bought 50 pounds of ice and a ton of mixers: cranberry, Coke, ginger ale, Fanta, orange juice, lemonade and tonic water. We brought it all home and set it up in the bar that I rented from the place downtown. Then we waited for Gerry to get there and start cutting up limes and lemons.

This is Gerry.
Sometime around 4:30 I entered my house to use the bathroom and got a surprise. As I stepped in past the threshold I found myself in a bit of a traffic jam. I had to slow down and excuse myself to get by the line of about five people in my kitchen patiently waiting to put in their drink order. It made me smile. It made me smile because it meant that everything was working like it should. All the pieces were fitting together and bonding at the edges. All the hard looking into myself to find the reasons why for years I did what I did was finally bearing fruit. All the time spent wishing I could be like everybody else who looked like they were enjoying life--desperately wanting to fit in--were a mere memory. All the years believing that I had to turn myself off to make me more alert, clinging to the idea that I had to go completely overboard to be accepted in, were now officially in a shoe box sitting on the shelf, labeled and stored for historical purposes.

And all of this and more--every single last corrupt tendency--was finally proven to me to have become irrelevant. And I could just stand in line talking to my friends holding a glass of sparkling water--which was exactly what I wanted--and feel at ease in my skin.

It's amazing to me to think of all those times in the past that I could have just excused myself and walked away in the other direction from the bar but didn't. All the times I was waiting in line, feeling like death, stepping up to the counter to ask for another serving like a sweaty zombie. It makes me shudder. But I am human. And we, as humans, tend to gravitate towards others in motion; it gives us hope. When we see people favoring a particular doorway, or an exit, or a menu item, or a spot on the sidewalk even--gathered around god knows what--we oftentimes follow suit, because we feel that if they're doing it there must be something to it. And we look around to gauge the reaction on those in front of us to see if it's something we should be putting our valuable time into. And every time I did it I came up--initially--with a positive response. And then, in time--at first mere moments, then, later, years--it all changed.

Strength in numbers only holds true until the results start pouring in.

So, as I started out at the beginning of this long overdue post, I happily brought back the half full keg of Sierra and got my deposit back. I leisurely put back the gigantic bottles of liquor in the cabinet above the fridge and added the bottles of wine in alongside my trusty San Pellegrino.

And there they will stay and wait for my second annual holiday fiesta in December. Unless, of course, a guest comes over and they would enjoy a drink or two. Because that's who I bought the stuff for: anyone but me.

A friend of mine at the party last week asked me how I felt about being sober and providing free booze for anyone who wanted it. I told him that there's only one thing I have to do differently to keep my life going in the direction it is in: to stay sober. That's it. That's all I have to do. And breaking the differences between me and most people I know down to that one important detail will keep me from complicating things.

Life is simple.

Life is man made.

Life is how we see it and how we feel it.

Life is continuous as it is finite.

Life is here if we are here.

And there's not much more to it that I can see. If we let our minds go--our complex and restless toddler of gray matter--we will lose sight of what we really want.

I just have to remember that people and tasks in my mind are almost always way more difficult than they are in real life. It's the occasion that is important--the intent. And as long as you give people directions and tell them what time to get there everything else will just fall together.

And that's the beauty of it all, and I thank my lucky stars that I can see it.

I hope some of you can too.

Thanks for reading,


PS: Happy Birthday, Jodi.

Sto lat!

I love you,



Anonymous said...

What a guy.....sounds like you have such wonderful friends who absolutely love you and your sweet adorable g/f....happy birthday to Jodi and x' and o's to you....

And I adore that Gerry is your go to bartender...noone could do it better...

You are truly and inspiration my sweet Al and you have proven to all of us that life is sweet...sometimes bitter, but always worth living to the fullest...and for that I love you.

sarah. said...

you sure are courageous, and i am very happy to call you a friend of mine.

Anonymous said...

I don't know you Alex but I've started to read your blog, it's very inspirational. Thinking of quitting drinking, if I do I think following your words may help. Thank you.