Drink, Grovel, Fuck: Summary of Findings
As I stood at the luggage carousel in PDX following 24 hours of air travel and layovers I started to quake on the inside and out. I felt like I had made it back from the Vietnam War, the simple act of navigating from London to Berlin over two months taking on the proportions of a hellish jungle campaign. Arriving at each destination and making every train transfer transformed into skipping over punji traps and dodging bullets. And despite whatever atrocities I’d committed or moral degradation I’d undergone, I made it back. This was a value-neutral point of pride, and a psychic antacid in the coming days as I digested the entirety of my voyage.
The stark contrast between the great cities of Europe and the suburbs of Salem, OR quickly rendered my travels unreal. The movie sets were dismantled and the camera powered down; what was left was a 28-year-old unemployed guy living with his mother and supposedly working on a novel. It wasn’t me who did all those shitty things abroad, but fiction author Cody Peace Adams, the hard-drinking purveyor of acute experiences. Back in Salem I was the minute-to-minute me, a real person notable to no one, running at half-speed among the wet strip malls and dripping evergreens of the Pacific Northwest in winter.
Now back on ordinary time, was I any different than before?
I’d seen and done more things, broken more personal laws and found new forms of weariness. A particular sense of judgment and superiority toward other people and the world at large had diminished. For I had opened forbidden doors and discovered that they were simply other rooms in the house of experience, easily incorporated into the foundational sense of propriety any thinking being needs to make it through a day. It was easier to understand how bad people live with themselves. And why nearly everyone was a broken and fallen entity. I had taken my place among them.
Having accepted this post-Europe mantle, I intended to start work in earnest on the long-stalled book project, a semi-realistic translation of the trauma and recovery of breaking my neck almost four years ago, and the strange enduring shadow it cast on my life, culminating in the resolution of a lawsuit that granted me existential freedom. Instead of writing, however, I slept a lot and rotated through four video games on a daily basis, setting calendar dates in the near future that would mark me finally getting my shit together. I wasn’t drinking but I wasn’t doing anything else either. The sickly sweet pull of a flabby, empty, failed life kept my superego at low volume, and two weeks disappeared in the lazy wink of a glass eye.
My elderly boss, whom I’d left when I left New York, died, waking me up a bit from the spells of suburbia and utter idleness. Soon after I learned that my grandmother had entered hospice care. My brothers picked me up at a prescribed time and we drove to her retirement home in Milwaukie to begin a too-late visiting regime, passing around a bowl along the way. Though the woman had half-raised my brothers and me I hadn’t seen her more than a handful of times since I left for college, and had completely forgotten to do so before I left for Europe. We found her sitting tiny in her recliner, wrapped in blankets and looking like a shriveled totem of her essence, shaking with final energy. She yelled at us for not having a relationship with our father, her son, tried to take down our phone numbers to give to him. She insisted on paying off my little brother’s college debt so he could finish his degree, and on giving my older brother her minivan so he could transport his children more effectively. On the coffee table sat packets of drawings we made as children that she was giving back to us now. I said little during the short visit, mostly staring at single-panel cartoons I had drawn when I was eight, awed by the persistence of self and the durability of the past.
The next day was my little brother’s birthday, and I decided to celebrate with him at our older brother’s house out in the forest. My little brother lives there as a male nanny for our nephews, and is hiding from an array of creditors and an arrest warrant. We stayed up all night smoking pot and drinking dexedrine water out of a mortar, playing video games and cribbage for a quarter a point (he won $23.75) while my older brother and his family slept. At noon I bought the birthday boy a bottle of spiced rum and a $20 scratch-it ticket. We chain smoked weed and cigarettes in the garage for hours, drinking rum and Diet Cokes and taking turns on Minesweeper (my competitor was at one point ranked 46 globally but was unable to beat my 32 second intermediate time). My little brother got bad drunk and depressed, felt terrible about taking money from our grandmother, and terrified of having to restart his life in earnest and make the most of his potential. I felt the same way about actually writing my novel. Then he reminded me of an old plot idea I had once told him about the messiah reincarnated in the body of a Chinese pug, and suddenly an array of disparate elements clicked together in my head to form the narrative backbone of a wild novel. I got actually excited to work on it, unlike anything I felt about my neck-break book.
In a matter of seconds my stalled novel burned away into the never-be.
I experienced what I can only describe as ecstasy.
That book, that story, the self-hate and flagellation, I had already written it. That was Drink, Grovel, Fuck. My punishment was complete and the accident was over. My responsibility was absolved. Now I could write any book, as far from the real world as I wanted, and stop being a character in a never-ending story. I could right the wrongs I’d committed in the past years, treat Europe as a funeral pyre for the cripple version of myself, try to be a good person again. My little brother groaned facedown into a workbench as I underwent a rapid and joyous internal revolution. He eventually stumbled back into the house to pass out for the day. I finished the rum and played more Minesweeper, feeling like a man who has changed his destiny, able to accomplish anything.
By the time my mother arrived for my little brother’s birthday dinner I was near insensate, smashed in a way I’d never been in Europe, each solid second of reality like a gasp of air to a drowning victim.
The earlier elation had supernovaed and collapsed into a pulsing horror of meaningless over-inebriation.
My nephew asked me why I was so sad and I could not provide an answer, was not aware until that moment how absolutely distraught I had become for no coherent reason, and was stricken further by the fact that he saw me in such a state. However much I’d exposed myself online during my travels, this was worse. Wrecked and delirious, I wanted nothing more than to get out of that house, but became badly confused and thought that I’d been left behind by my mother out of disgust when she had in fact run to the store. On the ride home through the rural dark I jerked myself awake a dozen times into the same consternation: this is how the blog ends.