Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off. ~ Raymond Chandler, author of the Big Sleep
The bliss in that first taste soothes my soul.
It’s six ounces of Ketel One vodka with a dribble of brine. Not the nasty liquid that comes out of an olive jar, but twice filtered brine from premium olives. This subtle saltiness takes the bite of the vodka down just a notch to pleasurable, an inviting clean crispness that sterilizes my insides and satisfies the palette like nothing else.
This drink and the art in making it is what symbolize the end of an arduous day, or not so arduous, a ritual nonetheless.
It’s a beautiful thing, the vodka martini. Even the word vodka sounds terribly exotic, so undeniably Russian. I’m wearing a sable hat, standing amid the tundra, my breath streaming before me in smoky condensation as I set my implements about—the cocktail shaker, ice, olives, pick, the 1.75-liter bottle that takes the support of my two hands to pour it.
How is it that I came to drinking dirty martinis? Gradually so clean one can no longer detect the color of the brine?
It stemmed from a stretch of unbearable time when I had been writing for seven years without any validation, an ounce of fruition.
I’d bleed all day long over the page, feel isolated long having abandoned my corporate career, determined to make something of myself writing. What I found in my dear friend, the dirty, was a form of self-medication—a crutch, a reward—the delightful anesthesia that numbed the anxiety of feeling like a failure, the taking of a wrong turn.
“Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
The thing, too, that’s commendable about drinking the dirty is it gets you to where you’re going. Fast. And instead of looking like a thirsty drunk, you can do the deed looking poised like Holly Golightly, long stem glass high in hand, three beautiful olives appearing larger than life through the condensation forming from the rim down where you’ve already sipped away.
The art, the sophistication, the ritual—its downright writerness.
I am a seasoned, one per night, quite functional vodka martini drinker. To some that may not sound bad, but I know what my physician would say and I’m staying clear of her examining room.
The margin, however, between quite functional and fully functional is a subject to be questioned.
Certainly, the gain is to be numbed from pain, some sort of intolerance for various fragments of life, the daily grind. The loss, in the slightest incremental stages that’s widening the margin, is found in a loose tongue and the voracious appetite that follows in the martini’s wake; the inability to read before bed, remember little things in the morning.
The loss, the slippery slope, is outweighing the gain.
It’s evidenced in my ever-expanding girth and my two arms, which now resemble loaves of bread. For the dirty, the escape it brings, frees me to consume a serving fit for Pat’s defensive tackle Alan Branch. Sugar and salt begets more sugar and salt.
And chicken parm tastes best when complemented by what?
A robust red wine—two glasses worth.
It’s stops there, right?
With an overstuffed belly, a shot of Remy Martin in a handsome snifter comes afterward. I’ve had a love affair with food all my life, well-managed through biking my butt off, but throw in this consumption at my age, it’s gonna lead to the end of me.
Obese essayist dies of ever-consuming consumption: she drank and ate herself to death, despite what she’s thinks, not so artfully.
Shakti Gawain, a new age author, whose methods of creative visualization I practiced like a junky when I began writing, says of validation, “When we consistently suppress and distrust our intuitive knowingness, looking instead for authority, validation, and approval from others, we give our personal power away.”
Sorry Shakti, I just can’t buy that.
I’m wired differently, tethered to the physical. I do not trust my intuition; I don’t even think I have any. I need validation to keep on.
Once upon a time when no validation was coming, I delved into taking in cute and furry animals until a person of well intention adopted them. The vodka soothed my nerves, caring for the animals gave meaning to my life. I’d be hard pressed to count the number of lagomorphs and tiny whiskered fur balls that have moved through our home.
Validation is crucial to my existence.
There’s a change blowing in the proverbial wind—there’s no need to anesthetize myself to endure the operation of life. I’m quitting the vodka although I’m on the third bottle beyond the one that was to be my last.
I’m gearing up, you see.
Why, might you ask, am I “suddenly” willing to give up my dearest friend, the dirty? The beautiful thing that took me away from reality; facing the endless number of untethered days ahead of me?
Because my work is getting picked up. There’s the validation, all that I’ve been striving for. No more crutch needed.
Getting published, I find, tastes as clean and pleasing to the palette as the vodka.
And, by God, it’s healthier!
It is the dawning of my existence.
Right now I’m crafting another essay with my writing coach, someone who validated my existence long before I was born and frightfully knows me better than myself.
We have a lot of things in common she and I, except outside of writing, she’s not obsessed with the dirty—she’s obsessed with yoga.
Yoga sounds so wholesome, doesn’t it?
Elephant Journal published My Dear Friend, the Dirty in December 2014.