Monday, June 23, 2014

Famous Drunk Writers

I figured we would get around to talking about these particular personalities. Not only have these characters turned their lives over to the literary arts, but also to the infamous ‘demon’ in the bottle. There they are, huddled by themselves at the end of the bar, notepad and pen in hand, desperately clinging to a watered down Jameson rocks, trying to put down the lines that will make them immortal.
There’s always the standard drunk writers everyone knows about. Ernest Hemingway ranks up there (and you know he wanted to be the best) as one of the ‘papas’ of the drunken literati. But even he admitted that he did not drink while he wrote. William Faulkner also claimed he didn’t imbibe during his writing frenzies as well. Funny enough, Hemingway called out Faulkner, saying he could always tell the moment William had started drinking when his sentence structure changed in his prose.
You got Hunter. S. Thompson, literate King of the Drug Lifestyle, notorious for ordering several appetizers, full course meals, and over 10 different alcoholic drinks in one sitting at a restaurant (all on the tab of whomever hired him). Edgar Allen Poe, famed misanthrope, adored his booze all the way to his mysterious death in Baltimore, after being found incoherent (and not in his own clothes), wasted in an alleyway.      
We are not talking about which writers were better drunks (if that can even be rated. And I think we all could agree that Mr. Bukowski takes the cake on this one). 
We know one of the by products of writing is drinking, anyhow. But why, you may ask, are so many of these literary figures drenched in their own alcoholic glories? What aspects of the writer make the consumption of alcohol (and drugs, let’s not forget) a necessary devil in the art of books?
One of the reasons is that it is readily available. Every corner store, every bodega, every restaurant, alcohol is both attainable and cheap. When you are toiling at the page for days, months, years, something ‘easy’ and ‘cheap’ sounds like a perfect match to me. Also, the amount of brain activity, attention to detail, and pure imagination required in writing novels can drive anyone to find some kind of libation to put away the troubles and stresses in the form of a rum punch or a mint julep makes perfect sense. Alcohol kills sensation, memory, and brain cells.
Just what the doctor ordered.
We are discussing the great writers of our past who wrote at the bars, on napkins and in journals, right then and there at the bar itself.
When I bartend, I seek out these shy types. Right after they order a drink from me and slip out a notepad and pen, I pour them a gratuitous shot on the house. They look up, bewildered that someone is being nice to them. I smile, hold up a shot of whiskey for myself and cheers to them. I know where they are coming from. As E.L. Doctorow (recipient of 2014’s Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction) once said: “Writing is the only socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
Hey kids, this Bud’s for you.
So who are some of the less known writers, know for drinking and writing at the bars?
Here’s a short list of these heroes from the bar stool:

Brendan Behan

This writer was the ultimate drunk bar writer. To the point that his favorite watering hole in Dublin had his typewriter installed at the end of the bar. No one fucked with him while he typed away, chugging whiskies back like it had the antidote. And maybe it did.
Mr. Brendan Behan was an Irishman, which already has the curse of alcohol consumption, but also the blessing of great storytelling. Brendan drank himself to caricature proportions. He was great with the quotes (“I’m a drinker with writing problems”) and had a knack for biting satire (“the only bad press is the obituary”), but eventually the booze got him. Just like Mr. Jack Kerouac (and what a tragedy that fellow was), Behan failed to complete more master works in his life, himself shipwrecked on the island surrounded by an ocean of alcohol. The drinking got worse, and finally, ostracized by fame and even some bar owners because of his drunken antics, collapsed at the Harbour Lights Bar in Dublin, dead at 41.

Dylan Thomas

Another writer from the Isles, this time a Welsh man, was a notorious writer leaning over a couple whiskies, penning those fine lines from the villanelle “do not go gentle into that good night.” He lived up to those famous lines, but much less poetically than I’m sure he was looking for. He was famous in his lifetime, but that didn’t much stop the rash of blackouts and chest problems that he struggled with in his later years.
On a trip to New York City, he met up with his then assistant and lover for several drinking engagements. But when he retired one misty November night to his room at The Chelsea Hotel, he couldn’t resist that familiar night call. At 2 in the morning, he stumbled into the now famous White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, and got ragingly wasted. Falling out of the bar he was quoted saying: “I’ve had 18 straight whiskey’s. I think that’s a record.”
It may have been. But when he didn’t wake up the next day, his lover called the authorities. He died days later. He was 39.

Dorothy Parker

Now maybe it is because women live longer than men, but despite the tragic stories of the men above, witty Dorothy Parker, empress of the Algonquin Table writers in the Jazz Era of New York City, lived to a ripe age of 73. No stranger to the drinking world (after all, it was the time in America when Champagne flowed like the Hudson River), Ms. Parker avoided early death and remain sarcastic pretty much about everything until the end (she wanted to put on her epitaph: “excuse my dust”). An early model for ironic hipsterism, she dodged suicide (only one attempt after her first abortion, to which she said: “what a fool I was to put all my eggs into one bastard”), and side-stepped falling off the proverbial bar stool by getting arrested for protesting the deaths of Sacco and Vanzetti and railing the government for equal rights for women. Maybe a sense of humor keeps you going through the rough parts? It certainly kept her from the clutches of cirrhosis. And in her last will and testament, in a total baller move, left her whole estate to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Yep. Straight up gangster.

So what did we learn today kids?
That’s right. Don’t be a writer. Stick to the job. Aim for retirement. Because if this path of the pen tells you anything, it’s a signature of doom.
Don’t sign the contract.

Till next week.




Wednesday, June 18, 2014


            Yeah. That sounds totally dramatic, I dig it. In a world full of idiotic sequels, remakes, and supposed episodic dramas we’re supposed to give a shit about, I found this title apropos of the state we are in.
What do we do in our modern world when we want to meet someone else and yet are so remarkably terrible at doing so. I think of small town logic (I come from one, Smithfield, Rhode Island, Google that…):
Everybody knows everybody.
In small towns, the answers are always clear. You know little Candice has slept with all the boys of Sloan’s Tavern. You know Wild Richard who grew up in them hills is a raging alcoholic. Ole Jim spent most of his 20’s in the State Penn for armed robbery and Lily lost her husband in the tornados back in ’09.
But here in NYC, where you are shoulder to shoulder 20 hours a day, it’s remarkably difficult to meet folks, even using Internet Apps to assist. What happened Match.Com, why did you let us down? Why did you break my heart OKCupid?
Damn you, ChristianMingle! To be honest, I’ve thought about you more than once ChristianMingle. I wanted to get on some of these dates. I thought maybe right off the bat, as we sipped our jasmine tea together, I would explain, earnestly and doe-eyed: “Jesus is very important to me. God is important to me. But I find it is a very personal quest I am on to know and connect with Him (said in a Southern Drawl). I just wanted you to know that.” Smile. Nod solemnly. Smile.
Dry humping, oral sex, and a massive amount of cuddling quickly follow. I could live with that for a little while until the occasional ‘bad’ night when the ‘devil’ takes over. We can repent in the morning. “We are all, sinners sweetheart, we’ll get through this together.”
Even from my friends involved in these cyber-classified ads, they tell me about the deranged people they met on these sites. Again, as stated in “TINDER HELL I” a couple weeks back, if you have a life doing things, you will meet people who share the same interests as you (not just make up interests to sound cool). You’ll know they like the same things because you were there. Maybe we have to create some new apps for the more specific minded city person looking for love in all the wrong places.
I’ve come up (with the help of several drunk customers) a couple of alternative sites that should exist. These are copyrighted people, so don’t get any ideas. The Bartender Knows is a poor organization, working hard to turn these little words into a media empire. This might just be the way.


The proof is in the pudding here, kids. You know what you’re getting on this site. In the gay man world, you’ve got Grindr. That tracks how close other willing participants are for wanton, anonymous sex. That’s what Tinder was supposed to be for straight people. But nope. Even the infamous Tinder has become almost Protestant Vanilla. Either the people are flakes, or come with strange agendas, or some other awkward problem—pretty much anything but straight up fucking.
So here at Snatch.Com, we require that people must sleep with each other. Blindfolded. In anonymous bathrooms. No one is allowed to say anything about their lives, interests, family, or occupations. If so, they are immediately blocked from participating in Snatch.Com. Yep. Take your game-playing ass out the door. Here at Snatch.Com, we be fuckin’.


Conversely, sometimes you just need a hug.
Here at Tender.Com, we pride ourselves on finding matches for you that are full of tenderness, kind words, compliments, with a propensity to giving small, intimate gifts. Tender.Com specializes in people being really nice to each other, considerate of one’s past hardships in love, wanting to hold hands gently in the fading sunlight. The people you meet here at Tender.Com are looking for what you are looking for…kindness, sweetness, little kisses on the cheek, They are here to give you affirmations before that big job interview.
Tender.Com is for the faint of heart; the calm, steady, endearing love that only men and women slowly dying in an old home truly understand. Why wait for the geriatric days to have that kind of love?
Have it now, at Tender.Com.


This is one of my personal favorites. Over at Bender.Com, they help you find that special someone to go on a ragingly alcoholic, no holds barred 5-day bender.  That’s right. This full-service app brings two people together to be barstool buddies for several days of open the bar/close the bar antics. Conversational ability, alcohol tolerance, and amusing anecdotal knowledge are taken into account. That’s right folks, if you can think of nothing better to do in your life than to move from bar to bar in Bukowskian glory, dodging fights, and keeping each other entertained by oscillating jovial tales and sad, intense, beer staring reflections about the tragedies of each other’s pasts, Bender.Com is the perfect app for those afflicted by Dionysian proclivities.

Till next week kiddies!






Tuesday, June 10, 2014


            We all know it’s time for the beach.
            What’s more fun about the careless abandon of throwing yourself, wet from the salty ocean, onto the sand, rolling around under the bright yellow sun. I end up resembling one of those pirate cast ways, sand in my beard, exhibiting odd beach behavior.  It’s no wonder the ancients believed the sun was their God.
            I once had a wonderful customer named Don, a jazz pianist and worldly soul, who would quietly order lunch at the end of the bar I tended in Boston. I asked him, in his wisdom, what he thought about the whole God thing. After all, he was 70 something and had been around the globe. He played juke joints in Barcelona and drank with Ernest Hemingway and Ava Gardner. I figured the guy knew his shit.
            I said: “Don. Talk to me. What about the whole God thing?”
          He shook his head, grinning: “I don’t know about God. I do know the sun comes every day. In fact, it has never not come up. Ever. That’s the most consistent thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Not God. That’s for sure. Not people. Not love. But the sun always comes up. I’d have to say I’m a sun worshipper.”
            I’m pretty sure I converted to sun worshipping right then and there. And last Monday was no different. After the long and dark winter we’ve had out here, that Vitamin D was desperately needed in my skin.  And as your dutiful bartender have explained many times before the whole system of getting to the beach here in New York City. We call it the Brighton Beach Adventures. It’s the nicest $2.25 subway ride you could ask for. Fast, too.
            The operation goes like this. We met up 10 am. I play the Father Figure Beach Nazi, wrangling the cats that are my friends together. Artists surely have a hard time focusing, especially at that hour. We get to the sand by noon. It’s bad luck if you don’t set your bare feet on the sand by 12. I’ve seen it happen.
            Then you break out the cooler with a collection of well-converted ‘roadies’. The cops don’t care what happens, just don’t be stupid. The Russians are out in droves. The locals are sunbathing. Kids are playing. The water is relatively clean.
            And appropriately, around 3pm, we head on down to Coney Island to drink at famed dive bar Ruby’s right there on the boardwalk. You’re back home by 5pm (and probably napping).
            Beaches are fantastic. Not only for the pure hedonism of that sort of life style, but it’s a helluva way to get to know people. I think something is essential troubled about people who don’t like the beach. I half grew up in Surf City U.S.A. and hated the beach (I was originally a pasty faced Rhode Island kid with a bad accent), and something surely was wrong with me. Maybe there still is.
            There’s several personalities that appear in the sun, drenched in sand, and any or all of these can be seen on Planet Beach.

            Beach Perv.
            Okay. Everyone, to some degree, is a beach perv. We are American’s, after all, which means we are repressed as all hell, so that amount of skin just on display can drive people wild. But there are limits. On a scale of one to ten, you want to remain around a 3. The ‘10’ types are the scary fat men with dark shades walking slowly down the sand. The ‘3’ types are casual observers of beauty.
            Somebody always is the beach perv. Next time it might be you.

            Speedo Guy.
            Wait a minute. Who says it was ever cool to wear speedo’s for a fella? I have yet to meet a woman that has openly expressed there’s some kind of turn on in seeing men’s packages proudly (or sadly) displayed. Gay men, sure. Straight ladies, I don’t know. If you know any of these women who do get turned on by it or might be one yourself, please email me. We can talk. You can be the one that stands out. Inside, you probably are a gay man. It happens.

Yoga Lady/Exercise Guy.
We’ll put these two in the category: “It’s cool whatever you do for self-improvement, but please do it somewhere else” mentality. Hey you, the guy with the speedos and doing exercises right by women and young children, please, need attention much. And come on sister, you know you got a nice air-conditioned studio somewhere in Park Slope where you can align your chakras. I’ve got nothing against Eastern Thought. If anything, I’m a Taoist. A Sun worshipping Taoist. Least to say exactly how many of Personality Number One’s you’ll attract. These two are exhibitions to a fault.
Talk about life in a glass house. A ‘lotion beaming on the skin’ house.

The Partiers.
Okay. I admit I fall in this this category (and a 3 on the beach perv scale: see above).
That’s what I think of when I’m on the beach. Relaxation. Boating. Eating cold melon in the sun. I have a friend who was so elaborate about his ‘catering’ he managed to smuggle out chilled papya with parmesean, blue cheese and water melon, rolled cold cuts. Perfectly cold temperature. Nothing is better at 3pm having this gentleman lunching on the sand. If this type of behavior is a crime, then take me to jail. I'm going to die by the beach.    
Nobody want to bother anybody. Roadies are essential, those Arizona 99 cent ones do nicely. Throw away your trash. Be cool. That’s all. If you act a fool, you deserve what you get. 
Street logic, son.

There’s a million of these characters, compounded that where I go is the next beach over from Coney Island, out there. To be continued...