Monday, December 23, 2013

Vodka Breath Disappearing into the Night

By Pauly
New York City

It's very early and I'm already buzzed. I blame the holidays.

Like any functioning addict, the environment is an easy scapegoat. If everything was all peaches and honey, I wouldn't have a need to imbibe so early in the day. Roughly 9AM. I used to adhere to the "don't drink until noon otherwise you're an alcoholic." My old man was a life-long alkie and if he didn't have at least one beer by noon, his hands started shaking. Talk about "taking off the edge."

I'm in New York City and in order to deal with the surroundings and the overwhelming stress of "being home for the holidays," I opted for the easy way out.

Coping measures. I'm officially home for the holidaze.

I'm a wake-n-baker. Help clears the mind. It's usually the opposite effect for most people. If they get baked first thing in the morning, they'll want to sink into the couch and watch sixteen episodes of The Simpsons. But a couple of drags actually gets me motivated.

I once worked at the museum with a marathon runner. Just missed the 1992 Jamaican Olympic team by two spots. He told me he rolled a blunt every morning. He smoked half of it then ran 10 miles. He came home, showered, ate breakfast, then smoked the rest of the blunt before he hopped on the train to go to work. He said marijuana opened up his lungs and allowed him to breathe more oxygen.

"Okay, I get the first half of the blunt. But what about the second half?" I asked.

"You have to be stoned to ride the subway from Brooklyn into Manhattan during rush hour. No other way," the almost-Olympian said.

I cannot exactly wake-n-bake in NYC while staying with my mother, so I either have to take a walk around the block to blaze up, or go for plan B... drink rum/orange juice and eat painkillers.

It doesn't sound as depressing as it looks. It doesn't sound as fun as it looks. It just is. I'm a functioning addict, just trying to maintain a specific level of insobriety so I can get through the day.

Writing is a wonder drug. Cures everything. Immensely. It's better than therapy. A really positive writing session and brain dump is like talking to your neighborhood bartender for an hour followed up by thirty minutes on the heavy punching bag. Therapeutic. But if I can't start every day with a writing session and a drag of California's finest herbs, then I'm all out of whack and it's going to be a long, miserable day, especially if I'm in harsh surroundings.

I miss NYC, but I always have mixed emotions about coming home. Too many ghosts. Too many bad memories. I try to focus on the positive things and fun, fuzzy memories. But too many things around to trigger the bad shit. An old sign. An old face. You never know when you're going to be ambushed with your past. You just hope you can hold your own in a mental street brawl.

I haven't been able to write much volume since I returned to NYC, which is why I got blotto this morning. The only quiet time I get is between 1am and 6am, so I had to re-adjust my schedule because I got accustomed to writing between 6-9am the last few months in California.

It was rainy, but unseasonably warm. Yesterday was a record high in NYC. Blame global warming. Blame Karl Rove's weather machine. Mother Nature is so out of whack, I'm worried that she's been eating too much LSD.

I walked over to the local Greek diner. Drizzle and grey. Felt like Seattle weather the last couple of days. The guy who owned the diner is named Spiro. No bullshit. He used to play ball with my brother. He knows I'm sort of a sports-gambling writer and wanted to know my thoughts on a few Bowl games. It was a funny conversation because he hung on my every word. Made me wonder if he was going to bet any of the games, or if his uncle (one of the local Bronx bookies) was going to rake in a ton of dough this Bowl season.

I was the youngest person in the diner at 7am. I was the only one reading a book. Everyone else had a newspaper. A real newspaper. Dinosaurs enjoying a virtually extinct product. I never see people reading newspapers in Los Angeles. I'll see actors thumbing through a script  at the coffeeshop, but never a newspaper. They say the LA Times has a circulation of 1 million plus, but I assume those people read the paper at home, or they live on the East Coast.

The diner was filled with regulars. Old regulars. Like really old old people. Retired Irish cops in newsboy caps. Retired Italian mob guys in Fila sweat suits. Retired Jewish shopkeepers in tweed jackets. The buzz was about New York's head coaches. Who was getting fired? Rex Ryan or Tom Coughlin? Or both.

I went home and I tried to write, but kept getting interrupted. Nicky knows never to bother me if the door to my office is closed. She knows that if the door is closed, then I'm seriously working. If it's open then it's cool to come in. But, my mother has not once respected the entire closed door rule in 40 years. I'd get more work done at Starbucks at this point, which is where I'm headed now so I can finish this post and write some football stuff, while hoping not to run into old classmates with their rambunctious kids in tow.

Anyway, this keyboard is fucking me up. I'm writing on a British-bought laptop that I acquired on the road many years ago when my laptop died in London while on an assignment. I had to scramble to find a new laptop on short notice. My client offered to go 50/50 on a new laptop. One of the few (if not only) times that they made a generous offer. When I got back stateside, I bought a different laptop, but I left the British laptop with family in New York City so I always had a spare laptop to use when I visited. I have a problem with the slightly different keyboard. It's so close to normal, but a few characters scrambled about. So it becomes problematic when I'm buzzed, especially early in the morning, when I'm used to just taking a brain dump and unloading a few pages of unfiltered thoughts onto the page. It's like trying to type on LSD. All the keys are there in theory, but the stuff on the keys is every-so slightly out of sync.

Where's the fucking 'quotation' button? And why is it above the number 2? Why is the Queen trying to fuck with my head like that?

I missed New York City, but I dread the holidays. It took me many years to figure out I was fighting a losing battle against seasonal depression. I guess shrinks never really came up with that term until a decade ago. Maybe more. I think part of what they say is utter bullshit... and just a ploy to shill pills for Big Pharma. I have a theory that there's really only a handful of true diseases and afflictions out there and that 90% of the rest is just bullshit fugazzi ailments that Big Pharma concocted so they can move new pills.

But it's hard to argue against seasonal depression. If you have a crazy family like mine, it's definitely enough to cause severe melancholy, especially when you're forced to interact with them at family meals and gatherings. I never do things that I don't want to do. That's been the key to happiness in life... trying to minimize things you don't like doing. But family shit is something you can never get out of, so it's often one of the few things I hate doing that I actually do. Then again, I decided to cut my losses by skipping Turkey Day and staying in California for that holiday, so I only have to endure a very long week during Christmas.

But when I was a teenager, I dreaded Thanksgiving up through Valentine's Day. Roughly 11-12 weeks. Three month long malaise. Most of it had to do with forced interaction with relatives who hate my guts. The rest of it had to do with enduring January (truly a shitty month weatherwise) and then two weeks of inadequacy leading up to Valentine's Day. If I didn't have a girlfriend at the time, I was made to feel inferior because I didn't have someone special. And if I did have someone, I was freaking out because I was going to come up short in the gift department.

I have a nagging hang up that I give people terrible presents. So I overcompensate and I give something totally outrageous (which sets me up to fail in the future because I have to outdo myself), or I try to get overly creative and get something quirky that ends up failing. On the flip side, I'm easy to buy gifts for. Get me a book. I'll read it at least once. Maybe twice. Every word. And if it's a boring book, I'll feel compelled to finish reading it if I give up initially. Regardless, any book given to me is an automatic homerun because I devour books at an alarming clip. I wish more people read books because it would be easier to give those as gifts.

That's why for a while I only gave people lottery tickets. Which is weird, because I feel that the lottery is totally rigged and one of the most degenerate behaviors (besides over-consumption) that citizens engage in with the blessing of the government. But it's the point that counts. A dollar and a dream. That's the motto. I'm gifting people dreams.

To combat this so-called seasonal depression, I devised ways to break out of it. Mostly trips to warmer climates in December and/or January. That's why my brother and I flew out to Las Vegas the second weekend of December. We wanted to gamble on football, but I always wanted to get out of the City for a long weekend after a stressful Turkey Day. I also tried to schedule a trip somewhere in January. For a while I was flying down to Florida to visit my bud Jerry. When I got a job in the poker biz, I welcomed assignments in January that took me elsewhere like the Caribbean or Australia, where it was in the middle of summer.

These days if I'm not traveling in January, I set aside a few weeks to work on a new project. That seems to keep my mind focused on positive things. But the bottom line is that I figured out how to handle seasonal depression. But I still have to deal with a couple rough patches.

I moved to Los Angeles several years ago because I hated living in Las Vegas and I didn't want to end up a cokehead degen gambler. I pretty much hate the concept LA, but I fucking love fading seasonal depression because its amazing weather in January. If I'm not traveling, I'm relishing the fact that the rest of the country is miserable and it's sunny outside. My college friend Chicago Bob fled Illinois and moved to SoCal a few years ago. He used to be thrilled to death to wear shorts in January and not have to shovel snow, which he'd be doing had he still lived in Chicago.

Yes, the weather in LA is amazing. But that's about all I dig about the city. Heck, I was wearing shorts the day before I flew to NYC because it was 80+ degrees. Felt weird to be sitting in my living room and staring at a Christmas tree while I was in shorts. I'll never get over that weird feeling of Christmas in LA. In a town that fabricates everything, they still have yet to figure out how to concoct a fake Christmas.

It was warm in NYC over the weekend, but that was just a nice little bonus gift from Mother Nature before the frigid temperatures return. I missed being super cold and having that harsh air hit my face the moment I exit a bar. It's a weird sensation, but it's something that I associate the holidays in NYC with... drinking in bars with high school or college buddies, then walking outside and getting smacked with a dose of frigid air. You could see the dense vapors from your whiskey or vodka breath before it disappears into the darkness of night.

1 comment:

  1. "Ambushed with your past." I am so stealing that line.

    Two thoughts:

    Shrinks have figured out more than you might think, you just have to talk to the right ones.

    You've already experienced life in the Bay area, get Nicky looking for jobs up here.