The Cheek of God

I definitely inhaled . . .

Tag: alcoholism

Dude, That’s F***ed Up!

Ed was one of the first “daddy bloggers” I ever read. I was immediately drawn to him because we both have daughters named Zoe. Well, actually, his daughter is Zoë, with the umlaut, because that’s how she rolls. In addition to sharing his generally G-rated tales of fatherhood at Zoë’s Dad, he has also written for the UpTake Vacations Blog, and is a contributor to Quirkee.com. For the “Just A Little Crazy” series, however, Ed tackles crazy from a completely different angle, and, as you may have gathered from the title, there are salty words and shenanigans aplenty. You’ve been warned! And while you’re here, be sure to visit the new Crazy! page to read previous entries in this series . . .

The only difference between myself and a madman – is that I am not mad.

~ Salvador Dali

I find it particularly telling that when posed the question, “What is the craziest thing you have ever done,” I was unable to immediately call to mind any specific examples. None. I drew a blank. Now don’t get me wrong here. I’ve got a past, a history, if you will. It’s just that quite a few of the details are a bit cloudy.

So I asked a few of my old buddies. “Simple question, guys – what’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done?”

I guess I was expecting a rousing round of “remember when” chock full of juicy examples and tantalizing tales of misspent youth (or early adulthood).

I was expecting them to share stories like . . . “Remember when we were in that car wreck? We were hosting those kids from the missionary choir and they were in the back seat. When we got hit you jumped out and started screaming, like a madman, ‘Oh, you fucked up now, dip shit!’ You stood there just freaking, expecting all of us to be your backup, only to turn around and realize our doors had jammed on impact. You were alone with two of the biggest, baddest dudes I had ever seen and these guys were getting more and more pissed with every obscenity you hurled at them.”

Or a story like . . . “Remember the time we went to the LSU game and decided, ‘What the hell!! The Saints play tomorrow at noon; let’s just go to New Orleans.” You got so drunk at the bar that we just left you. You told us you woke up thirty minutes after kickoff at that stripper’s house. She and her roommate were doing lines of coke off of your penis.”

Or . . . “that time you gambled away the $900 postdated check for the deposit on your brand new Mazda Miata. The Miata you bought before you had found out if you passed your nursing boards. And then you borrowed fifty bucks and won it all back!!”

Or they might have said something like . . . “Remember that time we went egging cars and you threw eggs into the open window of that one car – the police squad car – on surveillance.”

Little stories like these I was expecting. I got nothing. No answers to my e-mails. Maybe I was crazy to think these guys would answer at all. The more likely scenario is that their wives – wives very long on memories, quite short on forgiveness – intercepted the e-mail. They most likely saw my name on an email to their husbands and said, “Oh Fuck No!! You aren’t about to talk to that loon! I don’t care what he wants!!”

DELETE!!

So I asked my wife. Straight up just out of the blue. “Honey, what’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done?” Without missing a beat her face lit up, she looked at me smiling and said, “Ooh, that thing. That thing with the beads. And the feather!”

(I kid. I don’t know you guys well enough. And it was Cool Whip, not a feather. I kid, again!)

Honestly, she thought a minute and said, “Well, the story about you going out drinking and gambling in Baton Rouge the night before you sat for your nursing boards and getting stuck on the riverboat until 4 in the morning – (I had no idea it left the dock) – that shit was pretty crazy. I mean damn, Ed, that is your livelihood, your future.”

Then she thought a bit more and said, “You know, there’s still not a week that goes by that someone doesn’t say something to me about the time you loaded up all five kids and drove them across the country by yourself. That was pretty crazy.”

So here’s the thing: I guess I have done some pretty crazy shit in my day. Or stupid. Either way, I just don’t see it that way. I’m just living. I’ve always been the dude that was ready to go. Scenario: A call from a buddy that says, “Dude, we’re heading out to X Marks the Spot. It’s going to be great. You coming?” A typical response: “When are you going? Now? Let me see . . . it is a work night. I’ve got a test tomorrow. I don’t know.”

Pose the question to me and my typical response was, “Pick me up.”

I just did shit other people wouldn’t normally do. Or would fucking wrack their brains deciding whether to do it or not. I don’t consider that crazy. Spontaneous? Sure. But not crazy. I just did stuff without thinking of the consequences.

(To my enormous fortune I now have children and the spontaneity has been significantly curtailed. That, and no one calls anymore.)

Truth-be-told, the majority of the things I do now as a matter of common occurrence most people consider crazy.

Taking five kids to the grocery store would be an act of lunacy to most of the people I know. I’ve got no choice. Why should it be crazy, then? Or what about packing the kids and their bikes up for a day on the trails? Why should that be considered crazy? They’re my kids! We’re a family and families are supposed to do stuff together, right? It’s not crazy. It’s just how it is.

Hell, what do I know?

OK.

So you want crazy? All right, here’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done . . .

Long after I was drunk, I continued to drink. Countless times I drank despite my wife having clearly enumerated the consequences for my actions. Severe consequences and I just said, “Fuck it!”

I would load my children into the car after more than several and drive them home. I’d put them to bed with alcohol kisses and continue to drink long into the night, cursing life and my depravity. I was angry with no one. And everyone. For no reason. For every reason.

I continued to drink despite what it was doing to me physically and emotionally. Most horrifically, I continued to drink despite what it was doing to my marriage and my family.

Now THAT is crazy!

(This October 23rd will mark the third year of my sobriety. I still have some issues with lingering anger but have opted instead to treat them with peanut butter. Oh, and for the record, some of the events described above may or may not have actually happened. Details were quite possibly embellished – except for the Cool Whip. That shit is real!)

Roger & Me

I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny.

~ Roger Ebert

If life and death are truly cyclical, and we really do get to come back and be someone else for a lifetime, then I hope I’ve enough karma set aside to be reborn as a facsimile of Roger Ebert.

If you’ll allow me to resort to a couple of now-antiquated terms of endearment, Da Man is Da Bomb.

He’s won a Pulitzer Prize. He’s got a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. And he watches movies for a living. Can it possibly get any better than that?!

As fellow movie critic and writer Christ Beaumont once put it . . .

Roger Ebert is a national treasure. He is the most recognizable and well known movie critic. He has been my favorite writer for some time now. I do not always agree with his opinions, which is my right, but he always backs them up. He is not someone who will say that such and such about movie X is bad and leave it at that – he will give the reasons for his thought process.

As a case in point, consider Ebert’s response to Steven Jay Bernheim and David Defalco, the brains behind the movie Chaos . . .

Your real purpose in making Chaos, I suspect, was not to educate, but to create a scandal that would draw an audience. There’s always money to be made by going further and being more shocking. Sometimes there is also art to be found in that direction, but not this time. That’s because your film creates a closed system in which any alternative outcome is excluded; it is like a movie of a man falling to his death, which can have no developments except that he continues to fall, and no ending except that he dies. Pre-destination may be useful in theology, but as a narrative strategy, it is self-defeating . . . What I miss in your film is any sense of hope. Sometimes it is all that keeps us going. The message of futility and despair in Chaos is unrelieved, and while I do not require a “happy ending,” I do appreciate some kind of catharsis. As the Greeks understood tragedy, it exists not to bury us in death and dismay, but to help us to deal with it, to accept it as a part of life, to learn about our own humanity from it. That is why the Greek tragedies were poems: The language ennobled the material.

That quote hangs on the wall above my desk, a poignant reminder to find the hope in even the darkest of subjects.

About many of my favorite movies, we are in total agreement:

Dances with Wolves

. . . has the kind of vision and ambition that is rare in movies today. It is not a formula movie, but a thoughtful, carefully observed story.

Minority Report

Some directors place their trust in technology. Spielberg, who is a master of technology, trusts only story and character, and then uses everything else as a workman uses his tools. He makes Minority Report with the new technology; other directors seem to be trying to make their movies from it.

Monster

What Charlize Theron achieves in Patty Jenkins’ Monster isn’t a performance but an embodiment. With courage, art and charity, she empathizes with Aileen Wuornos, a damaged woman who committed seven murders. She does not excuse the murders. She simply asks that we witness the woman’s final desperate attempt to be a better person than her fate intended.

Amores Perros

Inarritu’s characters are not the bland, amoral totems of so much modern Hollywood violence, but people with feelings and motives. They want love, money and revenge.

Magnolia

. . . is the kind of film I instinctively respond to. Leave logic at the door. Do not expect subdued taste and restraint, but instead a kind of operatic ecstasy.

And at his personal blog, he writes with equal passion about topics ranging from evolution . . .

The zealots of Creationism are indefatigable. Even now there are attempts to legislate that the pseudo science of Intelligent Design must be taught in school systems as a “debate” with Evolution. In common sense terms, that debate was over a century ago. Yet there are votes out there for politicians who support such legislation, and at the 2008 GOP presidential debate, no less that three candidates said they do not believe in evolution. I suppose I should be gratified that there weren’t more. They were Mike Huckabee, Tom Tancredo, and Sam Brownback. Some took their stand on religious grounds, but didn’t include Mitt Romney, who as a Mormon knows his church has no official dogma about whether or not Darwin’s theory is valid. A Mormon can be a Darwinian if he chooses. Romney chooses to.

. . . to his own battle with alcoholism:

I’ve known two heavy drinkers who claimed they never had hangovers. I didn’t believe them. Without hangovers, it is possible that I would still be drinking. Unemployed, unmarried, but still drinking–or, more likely, dead. Most alcoholics continue to drink as long as they can. For many, that means death. Unlike drugs in most cases, alcohol allows you to continue your addiction for what’s left of your life, barring an accident. The lucky ones find their bottom, and surrender.

God, I love Roger. And hate him as well, for this week he’s at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he had a chance to see Lee Daniels’ film Precious . . .

I have been dying to see this movie since hearing about it several months ago. The book it is based on is a difficult, painful and powerful read. And now Ebert has seen the movie and I haven’t. He writes . . .

Precious, one of the best films of the autumn, is Lee Daniels’ story of a physically and mentally abused poor black girl from the ghetto, who summons the inner strength to fight back for her future. It contains two great performances, by Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, in the title role, and Mo’Nique as her pathetic mother. Sidibe is the life force personified. Mo’Nique has a closing monologue that reduced some of us to tears.

Damn him! I cry just watching the trailer. I imagine I’ll be a blubbering mess when I finally get to see this one for myself. For I love movies. And (have I said this already?) I love Roger Ebert.

This has been a long post, filled with many words that are not my own. And if you’ve made it this far, Dear Tweaker, you deserve some sort of payoff. Which is why I am now, publically, making a promise to myself: Next April 21-25, I do solemnly swear to be in Champaign, Illinois for Ebertfest 2010. I’ve lived too long without meeting enough people that I truly admire. I’ve thought of making plans to do this or that thing and then let them fall by the wayside of life’s rambling and unpredictable highway. But, unemployment be damned, I will find a way. Like Roger, I will take my place in an aisle seat and feed my passion for movies until I’m sick with glee. I’ll wait patiently in the queue to shake Roger’s hand. And if I can get a word out of what I imagine will be my extremely cottony mouth and can still my beating heart for more than a second or two, I’ll thank him for giving me so many things: a passion for movies; for words; for thinking critically about the details of life. And for being a survivor . . .

[photo credit]

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