Thursday, September 28, 2006

Two Kinds Of Drunk

People are apt to be censorious of the unashamed drinker such as myself. They tut-tut, not so unreasonably, at the bad consequences for the health of the individual and for society at large which result from excessive consumption of alcohol.

I am largely in sympathy. (Does that make me a hypocrite?) I abhor people who can't hold their drink. I abhor the noisy, selfish, loutish, uncontrolled behaviour which so often results from drunkenness. I particularly abhor violence.

But I've always believed the Roman maxim, In vino veritas - your true nature comes out when you're in your cups; drunkenness merely exposes or exaggerates traits of personality that are in you all the time, it doesn't make you into a completely different person. Some people are yobbish, insecure, loud-mouthed. They should never be allowed to drink. I, on the other hand, am highly introspective and a manic depressive - I am scarcely tolerable company except when I'm drunk.

I have often said that there are essentially two kinds of drunk: fighting drunks and poetry-quoting drunks. I am definitely the latter. As are almost all of my friends. (I recall with particular fondness the moment a dozen years ago when I bonded with a complete stranger in a smalltown bar on the outskirts of Philadelphia, a blue-collar guy who happened to love books and had just done a Master's on Yeats. He was used to moving in fairly philistine, uneducated circles where the name of the Irish bard almost invariably went unrecognised. When this skinny drunk English boy with the wedding party suddenly started swapping quotes with him, he was in Seventh Heaven, he could scarcely believe it - "You know Yeats?!" A year or two later I made a pilgrimage to one of Yeats's houses in London's Primrose Hill to take photographs for him.)

Sometimes, sometimes I even become a poetry-writing drunk. Perhaps it all began many years ago back at University when I wandered into a favourite bar with my Drinking Companion and observed simply, "The pub is full tonight." "The air is smoky," he returned tersely. After a couple of drinks, we had improvised an extended pastiche of Arnold's 'Dover Beach'. Ah, great days.

I have come to think of my current favourite drinking haunt as The Haiku Bar, because, a year or so ago, I was trying forlornly to woo a woman who was only intermittently aware of my existence, and, on the evenings when I couldn't see her and was drowning my sorrows, I fell into the habit of composing a frivolous or flirtatious (or, I admit it, occasionally maudlin) haiku to send to her by SMS. Although the woman has now gone the way of all Lost Loves, the habit of composition persists.

2 comments:

Tulsa said...

"When this skinny drunk English boy with the wedding party suddenly started swapping quotes with him, he was in Seventh Heaven, he could scarcely believe it - "You know Yeats?!" A year or two later I made a pilgrimage to one of Yeats's houses in London's Primrose Hill to take photographs for him.)"

Such a rich and varied life you've lived. If we all have in us at least one story to be told/written, then you must be bursting with at least 10.

And such a good job you do of keeping in contact. How touching to make a pilgrimage for one of what must be many many interesting and memorable people you've met in your life around the world.

Also, "skinny"? hard to imagine. I must see some pre-2006 photos of you.

Froog said...

Cheeky!

My Body Mass Index is still pretty good now.

But this was a dozen years ago, and towards the end of my backpacking year - when I had been getting a huge amount of exercise and not eating very much. I think I was down to about 170lbs.