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 a notch to pleasurable, an inviting clean crispness that sterilizes my insides and satisfies the palette.
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.
I was introduced to the dirty when a high school girlfriend mixed one up for me during a girls’ weekend. The memory of its taste and influence to seduce my mind into peaceful waters remained dormant, however, until I hit a stretch of unbearable time, some four years later, when I had been writing long and hard without any validation or ounce of fruition.
I’d bleed all day long over the page, feel isolated 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 between the rim and 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 exam room.
The margin, however, between quite functional and fully functional is a subject to be questioned. Especially since I’ve transitioned to drinking the dirty straight, aka “sans the dirt.”
Certainly, the “advantage” here is to be numbed from pain, some sort of intolerance for various fragments of life, the daily grind. The detriment, 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 detriment, the slippery slope, is outweighing the advantage.
The latter is evidenced in my ever-expanding girth and my two arms, which now resemble loaves of bread. For the martini, 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.
But 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 first 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.
When validation continued not to surface, I began 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, alas, is crucial to my existence.
There’s a change blowing in the proverbial wind. Yes, siree! I no longer a 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 martini? The beautiful thing that took me away from reality; facing the endless number of untethered days ahead of me?
Because my essays are starting to get picked up. There’s the validation, the essence of what I’ve been striving for. No more crutch needed.
And you know what?
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 intended existence.
Right now in fact I’m crafting a new essay on the writing life with Suzanne, my coach, an accomplished individual with street cred 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 martini—she’s obsessed with yoga.
Yoga sounds so wholesome, doesn’t it?
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Elephant Journal published My Dear Friend, the Dirty in December 2014.
Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. You can contact her at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.