This is a post about making, being a maker. Sure it is. Let’s take this idea out for a walk. We’re makers, you and me. Hmmmmm…. so what to make of and with all the empty bourbon bottles?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never truly embraced being an alcoholic the way I certainly should have.
Now smoking…. I could smoke ’em ’till the cows come home. In fact, I quit smoking one day only after having a stomach flu that was so bad that my doctor stopped over the house to bring Dave some sleeping pills for me (so that I could finally stop throwing up… nothing), and I took them, and woke up three days later. And, adding in the days I’d been vomiting my stomach lining, that made just about a full week of not smoking. Because I knew how bad smoking was for my health, and since I figured I had already done the physical withdrawal, I threw away the half empty pack that had been waiting patiently for me to stop puking.
But man I wish they’d invent a non-toxic substitute.
I had a job, when I was in college, with North American Publishing Company, a place so dysfunctional it would make the Trump administration look well-run. I don’t know if it is still around today, or any different than it was, but, at the time, added into the heaping disfunction and downright misogyny of the place was a complete disregard for clean air or one’s fellow man. And I loved that second bit. I smoked in the elevator. I smoked at my desk. I don’t think I smoked in the lady’s room, but I am certain Bernice did. It was the kind of place where all the women wore dress pants and blouses, probably both made of polyester, that were just a bit too small on them, but clean and professional enough to count, because they didn’t have the income for any better. And the rare and coveted offices were actually cubes with half-height sides, scattered at the edges, along the walls of the open plan floor, walls that met the baseboards that mice ran over after dark. No one kept snacks in their desk at NAPCO. In between the walls and the offices against the walls were the desks, about twice as wide as a school desk, lined up in neat rows facing whichever wall the exit was on. And I sat at one of those desks, on a half broken hand-me-down office chair, with a stack of pens and pencils of every sort, and spent my hours filling in subscription cards to make them pass an audit to show that people were, legit, signing up for these free magazines NAPCO published. Free to the reader, but paid for entirely by ads, as long as the reader fit the profile. (And if the reader did not properly fill out the tear-off card, then I was there, bubbling in the bubbles they forgot, and adding anything else they forgot too: hunting down addresses and phone numbers in the stacks of phone books piled in the mailroom.) And while I sat at my desk (or in the mailroom) and diligently worked, I also diligently smoked, along with the much older black woman, Monique, who sat on my left and ate Roy Rogers every single day for lunch, and was 300 pounds if she was a single pound, and Bernice, the much older white woman on my right, who probably weighed 85 pounds fully-dressed and in her winter parka who lunched on a half can of Campbells soup daily. My lunch was all over the place. One day a half dozen oranges from the fruit stand. Next time a piece of spanakopita from the Greek lunch truck, or bagel and whitefish from the bagel hut, or fried plantains from the Ethiopian truck, maybe Mulligatawny soup today, and you get the idea. Monique and Bernice were fond of me, and completely bewildered by my food choices. But while I could never get them to sample a plantain, they were often kind enough to empty my ashtray, or loan me a pack of matches. The three of us were a united wall of fumes in front of the office of our boss, Claire, who used to tell us dreamy stories about her wonderful husband who still called her his bride, though they were in their… late 50s. Claire did not smoke, but she never seemed to mind us constantly lighting the next one from the previous one as we listened to her stories. Claire was kind, and someone’s bride, and in a sort-of office. She was impressive. Monique would tell stories of card parties she hosted to help people pay rent, and she could do card tricks as well, and she would do them for us, but never revealed how they were done. I remember Bernice was always sprouting an avocado pit on her desk, though there were no windows within 300 feet of us, and once the leaves would emerge she would give it away, and be back the next week with a new pit. People lined up for those plants. I had to work there over a year before I got one. Claire lived in Bucks County. It sounded fancy and expensive and none of us had ever been there. Monique lived in North Philly. North Philly was not great, but Monique made it sound wonderful. Bernice lived in Camden and made it sound God-awful. I lived in the suburbs, and living there was like being stuck living in a social studies textbook when I really wanted to live in a Tom Robbins novel. Claire, as I said, was kind, but not funny, but appreciative of humor. She could laugh well. Monique and Bernice and I were all very funny, in our own unique ways, Bernice the driest of us all, and we got along really well, as smokers and their allies often do, and both the camaraderie and the cigarettes made time at a mind-numbingly useless job go by more quickly. Back then the owner of NAPCO was reported to live in the penthouse on the Delaware River by New Market, and I longed to make enough money to live in a hip part of town like that, but never ever did. And I’m gonna say that nothing’s changed much for me. I’m still working dumb jobs, still thinking I’m funnier than you, and still wishing I lived in a cooler place. Everything’s status quo.
Except the smoking. I let that love go. And I still carry a torch for it. Old habits …
I mean, in the NAPCO days I was of substantial frame, but in a cheesecake sort-of-way that was not too frowned upon, and the extra I carried made me pretty immune to the effects, of booze. I was either Fine, or Fine, or Yep, still fine, or Please excuse me, I need to go home and lapse into a coma now.
My brother drank way too much, like, “What year is it?” too much. And my father taught him everything he knew, but I never made it over the bourbon bridge.
I don’t know why I never crossed over. Maybe because I don’t need to be drunk to dance. I mean, I’m not dancing exceedingly well, or with rhythm or anything, but I just will do it, get out there, sober. Except for things like the Electric Slide, and when it comes to things like the Electric Slide nothing is going to help me. There isn’t enough hooch on Earth. but shit, yes, I’ll dance sober. I’m an introvert, such an introvert, but I love dancing.
So, if I drink, it’s not to dance. And it’s not to get brave, or wild. I might get a little giggle. I definitely get a sinus headache. If you drink sitting near me I’ll get a sinus headache. My sinuses hate booze.I have a beautiful nose, but it’s trouble, like a dame. You know what I mean. And I can get wild and brave while sober. Booze just makes me do it faster and with less accuracy. It’s not a given that brave only follows booze, not for me.
And yet, it’s relaxing that alludes me, the chilling out. I guess that, sometimes, grownups need some external force to aide in the pursuit of de-stressing. Which is why, if I am ever elected president or crowned queen, every adult will be entitled to 4 Valium/ month, purely for stress and other inner disturbances, and these pills will be paid for on the taxpayer’s dime too, and come in a pretty and re-giftable box.
And so, here we are in a pandemic, and I am not the president, so there is no free Valium for you and me, so what the fuck you gone do some nights when the stress rolls in off the sea like thick fog?
Well, of course, you rage journal and bitch-knit; I mean, don’t we all? And you take therapeutic baths, and long walks off short piers into the sunset, and you always have your various and sundry pets, and herbal concoctions, and goddess beads and mysterious things, like eyeshadow. But, seriously, booze. Am I right?
And so, having just poured the last half inch of the Maker’s Mark into my glass, and added ice and (my second favorite beverage after coffee) Q ginger ale, I am left with: a slight relaxing of the muscles, a slight sinus disfunction, and one beautiful and empty glass bottle.
Which is what you and I have gathered together, in this safe distanced way, to discuss.
I hate, hate, hate, throwing away glass. Call the bin on the right recycling if you want to, in my little corner of the world I think it all becomes just trash no matter which bin you stick it into, & I don’t want to waste glass. Lovely, beautiful, useful glass.
So, long story short, all you other people out there making clinky trash, what’s your idea for repurposing this glass? What are we going to do with all of these beautiful pandemic bottles?