January is about to make its last call. How about one more round before they close up the first month of 2020? I hope that you got off to a solid start this year. I mentioned setting realistic goals earlier this month. I’m moving toward mine, how about you?
I discussed the importance of place and having a point to your drinking this month. I stopped off at one of my favorite diners tonight, and I picked up a six pack of Abita at the corner package store. A good meal and a few Louisiana beers always go well with a Walker Percy novel. I hope you have a “clean, well-lighted place” of your own to frequent this year. If you decide to have one more round or two this month I hope you do it with point and purpose in mind. Place, point, and purpose can all help you achieve your goals.
Well, it’s last call for me (I just popped the top of my last Abita). If you are out there with a glass or bottle of your own, cheers. Keep moving toward your goals and don’t be too critical of yourself if you stumble from time to time.
What’s your favorite place to hang out? Is it a café, a coffee shop, or a corner bar? Regardless of your libation of choice it is important to have a place that you feel comfortable spending time at. Ernest Hemingway’s short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” stresses the importance of having a place to spend your personal time.
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is a study of the three stages of life through an existential lens. You’ll get no argument or questions from me regarding that analysis of the story. But Hemingway also presents the reader with an explicit message regarding the importance of having a place one can feel comfortable spending time at that is not his home. One of the characters, an older waiter says, “…there may be someone who needs the café.” This comment follows an exchange between two waiters who agree that drinking a bottle of alcohol at home is not the same as drinking at a café. There is some special quality the cafe can offer that home cannot. The story ends with the older waiter heading home after failing to find a place that that meets his requirements of clean and pleasant.
Hemingway’s story shows us the importance of these special places in our lives (mine is a local bar). The implication is that sometimes a home away from home, a special place or hang out, is necessary for any number of personal reasons. We may outgrow security blankets but we still look for comfort, and that comfort can come in finding a special place to hang out, to call our own (even if we share it with others).
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is an existential study of growing old if you use Hemingway’s iceberg theory. Sometimes you just need forget about what’s under the water and look at the iceberg itself and see what is explicitly conveyed in a story. Whether it is a café, a coffee shop, or a corner bar there is something comforting about having your own place to hang out. When you are drinking that next cup of coffee or pint of stout think about Hemingway’s idea of the importance of a clean and pleasant place.
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” from The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway by Ernest Hemingway
The one hundredth anniversary of the start of Prohibition is in a couple days (January 17th, 1920). Some consider it the starting pistol for our nation sprinting head first and hell bent into the Roaring 20s. In honor of speak easies, bootleg whiskey, hip flasks, and flappers I thought I would share my Drinking Man’s EDC (that’s ‘Every Day Carry” for those of you not in the tactical know).
As I’ve said before, if you are going to do any serious drinking then you should be serious about drinking. My EDC isn’t anything extraordinary, but it currently addresses my drinking lifestyle. What’s in your Drinking Man’s EDC?
Any sort of serious drinking requires some serious thought about drinking. Amy LaVere’s “Pointless Drinking” shows us that drinking without a point is to end up in a world of hurt when you get to the bottom of the bottle. Whether you have a glass in hand or hip flask in pocket be deliberate in both choice of drink and point for drinking.
The narrator of Ms. LaVere’s song stumbles from bar to bar and drink to drink without any point or purpose. Without any point for drinking the narrator has nothing but the thing she doesn’t need (or want) and that is another drink.
So what is LaVere’s eternal barfly, that aged drinker at the end of the bar willing to dispense a bit of 80 proof wisdom, telling us? Is “Pointless Drinking” meant to be some sort of cautionary tale, a prohibitionist’s treatise against the evils of alcohol? No, but there is some sound advice in our narrator’s tale, some choice wisdom that can be gleaned from the bottoms of those empty glasses. It is not alcohol that should be avoided. What should be avoided is poor choices, and alcohol and poor choices (like cheap and Walmart) tend to go together. Have a point to your drinking before the bartender pours that first shot. Make the choice to know what you want from your alcohol and know what you are in for when the bartender makes last call.
I did my share of pointless drinking in years past. I’m older and wiser (more old than wise) nowadays. I make certain there is a point to each pour and pint, but I can’t say it any better that Amy LaVere’s “Pointless Drinking.” Give Anchors and Anvils a listen and you tell me.
• “Civilization begins with distillation.” -William Faulkner-
• “Good people drink good beer.” -Hunter S. Thompson-
• “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.” -Dorothy Parker-
• “There is no bad whisky. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.” -Raymond Chandler-
• “The light music of whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude.” -James Joyce-
New Year’s Eve is often a time of reflections and resolutions. I am a proponent of self-reflection and self-improvement, but too critical a view of one’s self and unrealistic goals are unhealthy. It’s important to take a long view of the year passes without being too critical of yourself and to set realistic goals for the New Year. I like to spend a moment on New Year’s Eve reviewing my year of beer. Digging through the stratum of bottle caps provides me with a picture of what the previous year was like (it’s a mini archeological dig into my own life).
There were days of cheap beer when the check lacked overtime. There were many days of quality craft beers when OT was flush, or maybe I just wanted to reward myself for a Wednesday well done. Some of the caps are from gifts and others are from beers brought back from microbrewery trips. Some of the caps are reminders of special events that called for good beer, like watching Episode One of The Mandalorian with my bruva, -J-. The caps reflect the seasons. There are the golden ales of spring and summer and the stouts of fall and winter. Prufrock may have measured his life in teaspoons, my days are measured with beer caps (and assorted empty whiskey bottles but that’s a different post),
So here’s to the 2019’s year of beer and to another round for 2020. I hope you weren’t too critical of yourself in 2019 and that you have reasonable goals for 2020. There was no better way for me to start 2020 than with “The Champagne of Beers.” Yes, I could have bought a more expensive beer to crack open at midnight (I’ve been banking the OT) but there is no beer that better reflects where I come from, who I am, and what I want for 2020 more than “The High Life.”
When does a lost evening give way to a lost weekend? When do lost weekends give way to a lost life? Dorothy Parker’s “You Were Perfectly Fine” addresses some dangers of an evening of drinking to excess. The Lost Weekend, directed by Billy Wilder, addresses the dangers and consequences of years of drinking to excess. There are many movies that address alcoholism that are more recent than The Lost Weekend, but this movie was groundbreaking for its portrayal of alcoholism. Wilder’s movie is worth a view for both its originality and its lasting message.
Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend, based on Charles Jackson’s novel, was ahead of its time and earned the 1945 Best Picture Oscar (along with three other Oscars). Movies prior to The Lost Weekend avoided direct discussions concerning alcoholism or often used alcoholism for comic relief. Ray Milland’s portrayal of an alcoholic’s struggle over the course of a weekend was something new to the screen, and under Wilder’s direction, provided a realistic view of alcoholism. This realistic portrayal of the impact of alcoholism on the alcoholic and those close to him is as relevant now as it was when it premiered.
The movie has held up well over the past seventy years. The opening scene establishes the central characters and provides a realistic view of an alcoholic. Milland’s portrayal of a man who is struggling with alcoholism is realistic and allows the viewer to empathize with him. This realism was original for the time and still holds true. A viewer today can feel the same anguish as the viewer of 1945 when Milland says, “I’m not a drinker. I’m a drunk.” There are some contemporary critics who argue the end of the movie is not in keeping with the story and it has become dated. Although the ending of the movie does differ from the novel this can be attributed to Wilder’s need to get approval from the Hays Office censors. But the ending of the movie may not be as upbeat as many critics argue. Milland’s character may want to change, but wanting to change is just one step in a long and difficult process. This interpretation shows the movie’s message concerning the struggle of the alcoholic is as relevant now as it was in 1945.
Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend was one of the first honest and realistic portrayals of alcoholism on film. Ray Milland’s performance as an individual struggling with alcoholism rings as true today as it did in 1945. The Lost Weekend is worth viewing for both its historical significance and its message.
The Lost Weekend with Ray Milland and Jane Wyman. Directed by Billy Wilder.
1. “Hey Bartender” — The Blues Brothers
2. “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” — ZZ Top
3. “Whiskey In My Whiskey” — The Felice Brothers
4. “High Shelf Booze” — Eilen Jewell
5. “Whiskey In the Jar” — Fat Man Squeeze
6. “Drink House” — Scrapomatic
7. “This Drinkin’ Will Kill Me” — Dwight Yoakam
8. “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” — John Lee Hooker
9. “Another Round” — Steve Martin & Edie Brickell
1. “Bad Bad Whiskey” — Buddy Guy & Junior Wells
2. “What Good Can Drinkin’ Do” — Janis Joplin
3. “Stop Drinking” –Van Morrison
4. “Cigarettes, Whiskey, & Wild Wild Women” — Jim Croce
5. “Goodbye Booze” — Old Crow Medicine Show
6. “Pointless Drinking” — Amy LaVere
7. “Between the Bars” — Madeleine Peyroux
8. “Sunday Morning Coming Down” — Johnny Cash