The title pretty much tells the reader what this piece is about – drinking, though it doesn’t get to the first sip right away. The first section is the opening of the bottle not of whiskey, but of the fear the propels the opening of the bottle in the first place. It also presents the idea of pulse as a protagonist.
At the time I didn’t connect my sense of resignation with alcohol. I didn’t realize it was a depressant – I saw it as a creative stimulant, as my escape from fears – particularly the fear of sexuality – getting drunk & acting out with other drunk men happened more than once. Opening a bottle with them was unzipping the pants.
There’s also some wordplay – ‘sleep in on all fours’ sleep instead of creep – ‘giving in without a struggle.’ This repurposing of cliches is a way to let readers be comfortable with seems familiar while letting them see it in a different way at the same time.
I wrote some of this while drunk in fact. Parts were in notebooks, some typed & the pieces assembled back in 1977. Some images were in the ‘original’ scribble – ‘sleep in on all fours, the feel of fall is colder in my bones’ – the sense of resignation, which I now see as melodrama, as opposed to real emotion, was more self-indulgence that anything else. Sections were made by sober reflections on what I had written.
The last verse was handwritten several times as I tried, at the time, to make my drunken handwriting legible. Looking back I think ‘the fear’ was not only of coming out but of the ‘sense of a special offering’ & how it would be fulfilled. Sadly I discarded all those original scribbles way back in 1977.
With my AA anniversary this week (43 years on July 6) I’ve done some reminiscing about my early years in recovery. My memory is helped by the journals I kept at that time – this was before keyboards & morning pages. Handwritten & for the most part more a listing of events than reflections on those events. In my poetry archive I have pieces that I wrote then which are more about discovering the gay world than exploring sobriety.
One artifact I have is a cassette recording of my 5 year anniversary from 1983! I’m not sure if I have heard it since it was first recorded. I also have a photo taken of the occasion, plus some of the cards I was given! The photo brings back some memories. I listened the the tape a few months ago though before passing it on to the Archives for preservation as mp3.
It is, I’ve been told by the head of that committee, a piece of gay recovery history that shouldn’t be lost. I had to hear it first before letting it go. It was a bit embarrassing to hear myself praised, to hear my actual ‘acceptance’ remarks. It was bittersweet to hear these voices of members who, for the most part, are no longer with us. Dead friends. So many dead friends.
Some murdered by HIV, some who died of life itself, some who moved away to Vancouver or Calgary to struggle with their sobriety in different surroundings but didn’t make it, deaths I heard of eventually. Voices I still recognized. Voices that I was happy to hear again. I even recognized laugher of people in the audience.
I do recall the tape being made but don’t remember who made it. Side A says ‘Duncan’s Fifth – Key unknown – 7 July 1983.’ Side B ‘‘Duncan’s Fifth in AA major – 7 July 1983.’ Printed by the hand of the taper. I love the Beethoven reference. It is the entire meeting from opening serenity prayer, passing the basket & the closing prayer.
I was a little surprised that it played at all. Cassettes often dry out, loose their ‘dynamic tension,’ tape ends become disconnected from the spools. One of the reasons I was so happy to to move to from tapes to cds. There was nothing more dismaying than having the tape on your Walkman jam up & pulling it out with endless feet of tape dripping out of it. I may wait another 43 years before hearing it again though 🙂
This is a piece I wrote in Cape Breton back in 1977 when I was deep into my alcoholism.
The next afternoon Dan was looking over the specs for the latest Lyphend camera. As with most of their models the price range went from four to five figures, including a limited edition of twelve at six figures. The limited edition price always included a portion that was donated to a charity. This one was to go to Eyes Without Borders which brought eye care to people in need. That need could be anywhere in the world. Even in over-privileged nations people couldn’t afford needed eye-surgery or even glasses.
Shouting erupted from the store below. Someone was very angry. Occasionally under-medicated street people would wander into the store. This sounded like one of those. It was the sort of physical confrontation that he found difficult to handle.
The hardest part of his RCMP training was the hand-to-hand combat. He was good enough to get a passing mark but he dreaded that class more than any other. He’d often found himself physically sick by the end of the class. He was grateful that he never had to put use what he had learned or ever had to defend himself.
He went to the monitors to see who it was and if he needed to call the police. It was a man moving too much for Dan to fully see his face. He went to the bottom of the stairs and stood at the entrance to the Depot.
“What’s all the commotion?” Dan asked.
The man turned and charged at him. Dan held his ground, stepped aside at the right moment and nudged the man as he rushed passed him. The man lost his footing and fell on the stairs.
The man laid quiet for a moment then turned himself over. His nose was bleeding.
“What the fuck!” He said. “Look what you’ve done.”
It was John Kilpatrick from Unsolved Cold.
“John?” Dan said reaching over to help him up.
John grabbed Dan’s forearm with his left hand, pulled himself up and at the same time swung with his right fist catching Dan under his eye.
Dazed Dan staggered back as John hit him again in nearly the same spot. Blindly he struck out with his elbow and felt it hit John’s chin. John crumpled to the floor.
By then Ushio was pulling Dan away. The pain in his eye made him dizzy. Ushio lead him to a chair by the order desk.
“Police are on the way.” Sandy said.
“Which means we’ll see them in about two days.” Dan said. His eye had quickly swollen shut.
“Here,” someone handed him a cloth with ice in it.
He glanced up with his good eye. It was Jill. “Thanks.”
“What was that all about?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Ask him.”
Dan peered around. John Kilpatrick was gone.
“I was John Kilpatrick. Don’t ask me why though? I only met the guy the once a few weeks ago.”
“Weird.” Sandy said. “I think you should go to St, Mike’s emerg and get that looked at a s a p boss man. I’ll deal with the police when they get here.”
Dan got up. Dizzy he sat back down.
“I’ll get a cab.” Jill went out to the street and came back a few minutes later. “Got one. Come on.”
“Ushio get my shoulder bag from upstairs. I’ll need some i.d.”
Three nurses, two x-rays, two resident doctors, one ophthalmologist, a gauze apparatus over his eye and six hours later Dan was squinting around the waiting area for Jill. She was talking with two unformed police officers.
They came over to him and introduced themselves.
“I’m Officer Marks and this is my partner Officer Howard.”
He shook their hands.
“How’s the eye?” Jill asked.
“Not as bad as it feels. Luckily they found no fractures around the eyesocket or cheek. The eye itself appears to been bruised but the extent of that damage can’t be ascertained until the swelling goes down. No broken blood vessels though, which is a good sign.”
“You’ll be glad to know that we have detained Mr. Kilpatrick.” Marks said.
“Thanks.” Dan said. “That was fast.”
“Being that drunk makes a person do foolish things like wandering up Yonge Street with blood dripping down your face. Made him very easy to pick up.” Howard said. “His blood alcohol count was off the charts.”
“When we got the call from your store we realized some of what happened.” Marks said. “We’re still not clear on why though.”
“Neither am I.” Dan said. “It was just a routine day at the office and bam he comes in ranting at my staff.”
“We saw the video. Great security setup you have.” Marks said.
“Didn’t keep this from happening though.” Dan half-laughed.
“You don’t know why he was upset?” Howard asked again.
Dan explained how he knew Kilpatrick, then a bit about the missing children’s case and his personal interest in it.
“He’s said nothing to you?” Dan asked.
“We won’t get much out him till he sobers up. By which time I’m sure he’ll have his lawyer by his side. That was the one thing he most clear about. He wanted his lawyer to sue you, some black bastard named Baxter.” Mark said.
“You should talk to Baxter then.”
“You know who that is?”
“He’s the producer of Unsolved Cold.” Dan said. “I have his card.” He looked in the little pockets inside this shoulder bag and found it. “Here it is.” He handed it to Marks who looked at it then handed it to Howard.
“We’ll get in touch with him.” Howard sighed as he made a note of the name and number on a pad. “We’ve dealt with Quintex before.” he glanced at Marks.
“Yeah they wanted to do a Bad Boys Toronto then discovered how boring Toronto really is.”
“Is there anything more?” Dan asked.
“Nope. it’s all pretty much open and shut as they say. Assault, video evidence, witnesses. He’ll be charged. His lawyer will see what we have and they plea. Most likely it won’t even go to trial. Unless …”
“Unless what?” Dan asked.
“We find some evidence that you instigated this. That become mitigating circumstances. But that doesn’t sound the case here.” Howard said.
“Can we give you a lift?” Marks asked.
“Sure.” Jill smiled. “You can drop us off at the scene of the crime. I’ll give you a cup of coffee you won’t forget.”
Sandy was still waiting for him at the Depot. Ushio had gone home. He filled her in on what had happened. Once the store was closed and secure for the night he went up to his retreat on the third floor. He was glad his Dad had kept this part the old apartments. A full bathroom and bedroom that Dan had sometimes used when he was visiting home from university.
He resisted calling Sanjay because telling him about this would be too melodramatic. He longed to have someone to sit and talk to about all that he had been going though but couldn’t think of anyone. Outside of Sanjay he had no gay friends. Jill was good up to a point but what could she say about these things he suspected about his father, about his fears that Sanjay would actual leave him.
Now this incident with Kilpatrick. His recollections of the interview last week were vague. He hadn’t had much conversation with John off camera. A few words about camera and light setups and that was it.
Restless he took out his personal laptop. Nothing on V-Files held his attention. His last nook post was still getting some response. Guys wanting to know what equipment he used to get such a clear image. There was market he had never thought to tap. Nor would he.
His bandaged eye throbbed and his good eye was starting to ache. The ophthalmologist had warned him that would happen. Too much strain on one eye would affect it.
He shut the laptop and laid on the bed. He got up and went to the bathroom to see what was in the medicine cabinet. Thankfully there were some Dozease. He took two, along with one of the pain killers the doctor had given him, laid back down again and dropped into a fitful sleep.
He woke several times thinking he could hear someone in the bedroom, then in his office beneath him. One time he went to the top of the stairs but heard nothing. The monitors showed him the empty spaces, the empty store, as passing car lights illuminated it.
When he could hear the Carafe opening up he took a quick shower, put on clean clothes. The stale smell of the rooms reminded him he needed to air his getaway if he was going to use it more frequently. Without Sanjay at the house it was pointless to keep going back there every night.
This is a mp3 collection that takes me back to when I moved to Toronto way back in 1978. There were real record stores in those days. Starting with Sam’s. There was also a resurgence of pop out of punk & away from the smoothness of groups like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac. One was Lena Lovich with her militaristic Russian image. I loved & have Stateless, Flex. Both great restless albums that hold up today. Excellent production & propulsive songs. She has a fine voice too.
Even more propulsive is Nina Hagen. A brilliant, fearless dynamic performer. I remember the thrill the first time I heard her TV Glotzer (not in this collection). Here I have Fearless, Ekstase, Irgendwo Auf Der Welt. Fearless is her lp with Gorgio Moroder. I love I Love Paul. Her New York New York is astonishing. Ekstase is the German version of her Ecstasy lp. Der Welt is a later work, also in German, that is full of her operatic, funky punk. I’ve seen her live a couple of times too. Once at Larry’s Head Space here in Toronto.
Nina’s work went through many changes as well from the proto-power-pop-funk-punk with brash sexuality she moved into a more spiritual & less musically aggressive sound. Tucked away in other collections I have some of her almost Zen explorations. Check out her album of tangos.
Finally on this cd is Kate Bush’s The Kick Inside, Never Forever & The Dreaming. Sonically stunning music & ethereal songs full of longing, mystic visions & at times fun 🙂 She influenced generations of singer-songwriters (Sarah McLauhgin, Enya). The first became a teenage girl romantic beacon with songs like Withering Heights; the second steps up her pop reach with Babooska, I love ‘Delius.’ Dreaming aurally has comic moments & the rhythm attack breaks the Enya aura.
He was sixteen. Drunk. Not shit-faced drunk though, more like puppet-drunk, mobile but not in full control of his arms and legs.
The conversation went around the same few phrases ‘What’s been going on with you?’ ‘How you keeping?’ “What’s up?’ and then moping about school, family life.
I’m far from sixteen. Could be his dad. I’m not drunk. I have full control of my arms and legs. I know what I’m saying and am tired of answering the same questions. Don’t want to ask him about school, family life. All that is going on is that he was looking forward to getting drunk again.
His mother doesn’t mind. I’m not sure if she approves but do know enough not to be too vocal about her disapproval. She know’s what’s up.
His face looms closer to mine. His right hand keeps patting me on the shoulder, on the leg; almost inviting me to do the same.
He’s only sixteen. I remeber me as sixteen wanting that man-to-man comfort and with no opportunity to get it. Here he had his opportunity and I was afraid of proving it.
“What’s up? What are you thinking.” He asks.
“I was wondering how to expect to get home in this condition.”
Taxi is going to happen. taxi. Got taxi money. Gotta think ahead.” He tapped his temple with the beer bottle. “What’s going on with you?”
“Not much.” I reply.
“Or I could crash at your place.”
“That’s not going to happen.” I wasn’t sure on the legal ramifications of underage drinking in the company of old queers. At least here we weren’t alone. Lots of people were at the party who know me, know him, know his mother, in fact she might even be here.
“Is your mother here?” This could be my easy out.
“Yeah she and Bill dickhead are around somewhere. She’ll drive me home. Save me taxi money. I’m getting another. Can I get you something?”
When he pushed himself up from the couch easily, he’s not as drunk as I thought he was.
“I’m mean to drink.” He laughed.
“Nope, I’m fine for now.”
One of us had to stay sober. Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thankspaypal.me/TOpoet