… but you’ll never catch me writing just after I visit it.
I was doomed from a young age to lusting after the Hemingway life. In college, my fellow English/writing major friends and I idolized the concept of “life as the drunken writer.” There was no goal finer than sharing our spurts of genius while doing the bar circuit and talking literature, plot and the human condition over one more drink. Oh, yeah, and writing now and then.
Can’t understand a word we’re saying? Well, you just don’t get it. We’re not slurring, you’re stupid. Have another drink and smarten up.
No, I did NOT just spew dinner and vodka out the cab window. That was just a purge of angst and bad ideas.
Many of my idols – both authors I read for literature classes and the pop culture icons I learned to love all by myself – were drunken or drugged writers. On top of that, my parents owned (and still own) a bar. I spent, and still spend, most of my social time in the family pub. There was no where else I’d rather be, and that hasn’t changed.
My family’s pub introduced me to football. I have rarely laughed harder than when I’m gathered with the local crew or my own circle of friends in the safe and crazy confines of that bar. It has gotten me through work stress, divorce stress, and yes, writer’s angst.
But guess how many masterpieces I’ve penned (or typed), after getting my drunk ass dropped off at home after a night of too much fun?
The truth is, I’ve never really tried. I know what happens when I try to drunk Facebook. A status update that was supposed to say “dragonberry rum rocks” is just as likely to read #($$)%Frumrocks. When I’m dumb and drunk enough to do this stuff, I usually have to wake up the next day and blame it on the cat.
Most of my drunken writer heroes are either long dead or sobered up and still churning out good stuff without their mind-altering crutch. They’re my proof that the college dream of the Hemingway life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Maybe I take my writing just a little too seriously to want my memory of my first published novel to be how I wrote it while wiping drool off the keyboard.
That doesn’t mean my trips to the bar and my own tendency to request far too many visits from the shot fairy once I’m there don’t contribute to my writer’s life, though. Although I will never write drunk, I can’t imagine being a writer who doesn’t go to bars. Or at least, to “my bar.” I’m not saying all writers should go tie one on and see how many shitfaced Jersey Shorelike dudes they can get to hit on them. I’m just admitting that for me, a few hours at the pub is, was and always will be a story mine.
There are so many characters waiting to be used in my fiction who would never exist in my mind if it weren’t for meeting their real-life counterparts in the bar. There’s the short bald guy who used to come in wearing mismatched outfits who would say he had no money and almost demand someone buy him a beer. While waiting for a taker, he’d go in the men’s room and take extensive and odiferous dumps. When he’d return from dropping off his load, he’d cuss people out because there was no beer waiting for him.
There’s the uber-geezer who always wore bright print shirts and hit on my friend every time he came in. Me and another girlfriend interrupted their conversation once, and he growled at us. Not a grumpy old man growl, either. I’m talking a lion’s roar. Then he pulled out his dentures, held them in the air, and clacked them at our faces.
Those are just a few of the folks I’ve met that even with my imagination, I don’t think I could have invented on my own. I could go on and on, but I think I’ll savor some moments for future posts or stories in and of themselves.
I don’t write drunk. But I do collect characters in the bar. Many are people I’d probably never converse with sober. I observe while I hang out with family, friends and shot fairies, and then I go home and go to bed.
I don’t write about them then, but I don’t forget them. I wake up the next day and jot them down in my writer’s journal, where they live until they become part of a bigger inspiration.
Someone who grew up in a bar family doesn’t look for excuses about why she loves the life. She just does. But I’m glad I have a good one, anyway. If you happen to be in the Baltimore area, don’t let my denture-clacking lady’s man or dump-taking freeloader scare you away. We’ve got them all, just like Toby Keith says in the song, not to mention beautiful shot fairies. Some of us are even normal.
Just look at me. Then again, scratch that last sentence.