Sunday, February 16, 2014

Day 35: The final beer (w. Kyle devalk, Elvis Presely and Uncle Rick)....

It has been thirty-five days since I chugged my last beer. Thirty-five days since I last held the aluminum silo of a connoted adult beverage in my left hand, abruptly cracking it open with the curved trigger of my pointer finger, a gushing crackle echoing in guttural splurges as the beverage kicks open, flips backwards in tandem with tilting chin in an initial rush as it erupts past your lips, shotguns into your anatomy in an explosion of hop-riddled fizz and malty flavored froth.  

Thirty-five days. A whisked month of calendar squares plus a coda.  Three more days and I will have gone longer than my failed campaign at the initial Succulent Sobriety where I capitulated my quest at day 38.

 In early December I was imbibing a case and a half (plus) a day. I would come home from work, trudge through the dirty banks of snow abutting the salty avenues of West Peoria, finding myself at Walgreens on Western pick up a case of PBR and come home and write for a couple of hours, cracking open pilsner after pilsner before heading, usually around 11, to the liquor for a case of Sam Adams.  When my roommate fed me rent the accumulated sum would be routinely marched across the street aptly deposited at one at the glossy counter of one of our favorite West Peoria watering holes, where, forty-five minutes later, the rent in its totality would be exchanged for a bevy of empty pint glasses.

That was Thirty-five days ago. I have not had a beer in 35 days.

I wanted to make my last beer a memorable faretheewell beer. An envoy drop. I wanted to send my last beer out like Noah and a dove, patiently waiting on the floating planks of an Old Testament Zoo before the beer arrives at the sill of my window forty-days later, a freshly plucked olive leaf placed next to the six-pack anticipating the prepatory slurp.   

I wanted to say goodbye to my last beer at a 1940’s era train station, the jerky writer attired in a military uniform swallowed in a plume of exhaust as the beer waved a handkerchief goodbye at him, promising that the beer will faithfully wait for him, sitting next to the static of a mid-century radio, crocheting, waiting for the devout palate of the beers beloved to return from the self-inflicted trenches of sobriety.

More than anything else I wanted to have my last beer with my literary-goading roommate and fellow alcoholic enabler local poet Kyle Devalk, only it happen that way.

It didn’t happen that way at all.
KD at Citylights compliments of  ravishing Brianne...

The night before Succulent Sobriety Two was set to convene Kyle was in the hospital, coming down hard after a three month drinking binge. We had been drinking assiduously (by that meaning daily, hours of craft beer capitulation lost in tandem with the synchronous crack of an opening beer) since at least last September when I arrived home from driving down to MO. to buy cigarettes with a friend and somehow (thanks to not wanting to abandon the tortuous slope and lavender sunset abutting rt 6) ended up in South Dakota 18 hours later, camping out in Chris Mccandleless fashion next to the craggily visages of Mt Rushmore, lost in a scatter of mountain goats, the towering evergreens and feral bison the black hills avail.  Two days later I arrived home to find every light in my apartment turned on like illuminated calendar squares. Kyle (recently exiled by his girlfriend) had been living in the West Peoria bars for the last two days and sleeping on my back porch at night. The third night of crashing on my back porch he decided he needed to pee somewhere other than the trough at the Owl’s Nest and broke into my apartment.
It was a literary fete.

Two years ago Kyle crashed with me for four months and we were drunk all the time but we were also fucking writing our asses off.  I have a big oak writing desk in my library that looks like something the Lorax loving salvaged from a money-grubbing Thneeds and at the time Kyle wrote in my Picasso blue room, the intermittent purr of his Smith-Corona humming like a duet with the crunch of his keyboard. Kyle was a poet and I was novelist and we both wrote ten hours a day, stopping for three hours to tramp into a West Peoria bar or purchase a cube of PBR’s before biting into the narrative cream of the page once again.

 Where I have some literary friends who when we go to a bar lose themselves in the weak iridescent glower of legalized video gaming, Kyle and I, when we get hammered, we talk about books and art and the human condition. Kyle gesticulates more and can be more stringent in his polemics. I’m pretty much always seeking an opportunity to crack open a flaccid witticism  (i.e, Faulkner wrote GO DOWN, MOSES after reading that pamphlet about the old testament prophet whose wife was sexually frustrated). Together we make for an affable outing, and (of course) after reading my dear friend Jeanette Kendall’s splendiferous piece on Rick Baker, when writers’ get together to drink there is simply no greater conversation ricocheting on the pulse of the planet.
So I wanted to have my last beer with my closest literary brother even though I realized that we were overdoing it again, adorning the globular vessels of our respective livers with tassel, mortarboard and gown. Even though I got into the habit sometime in November where I couldn’t take a shower much less chisel out a sentence without drowning a six pack first. Even though when Kyle fed me rent every two weeks we immediately absconded our literary abode and I fed the funds into the wooden lip of one of the bars within’ back porch urinating distance of our apartment. Even though we had some incendiary kick ass poetry readings at the Tartan Inn where, for some reason we started drinking  at the Get-a-way at noon and then passed out in my apartment at six, only to be roused by my friend Valena fifteen minutes before we were scheduled to rock the mic.  

Even though everything was crazy and a week before Christmas I realized that I had to go on an alcoholic furlough and  the only way I know how to do that is to start a blog and make a big deal and write about it via every day.


Whereas, due to an inexplicable Johnny Tremain accelerated reader fetish when I was in third grade I drink a shit-ton of Sam Adams. I was hoping I could split a Sampler of Sam Adams Spring thaw, alighting my final beer above my head
. About a week before Succulent Sobriety started I had a dream where my I end up drinking with Elvis and it turns out he is my grandfather and all he wants to drink is Schlitz Tall Boys all the time.

After that dream I knew that my final beer would be a Schlitz tall boy.
And I wanted to have my last beer with Kyle, only it didn’t happen that way.
It didn’t happen that was at all.


Kyle had been drinking every day for more or less the past two years. He upped his ante and bellied-up to the bar hardcore this past autumn. He surreptitiously drank at work, nursing a 40 in the back room between shifts.  He could be charming and accumulate a bar tab at the most ravaged watering holes where such a request would you get one a forehead tattoo stating that they were exiled for life. If head to choose between beer and food he would eat beer, as both would. Around Halloween he began purloining pumpkins from the neighborhood porches, not to smash them, but to eat them, claiming that when god gave you manna from all-hallows-eve heaven don’t bitch about being hungry.

In his beat chicanery he taught me how to go into a bar, slide them a debit card (note: it helps if the debit card is a VISA that doesn’t have your own name on it) that doesn’t have much left in terms of funds, drink off the vicarious tab, get a god meal and then inexplicably vanish, leaving the employees of the establishment to chip in on the bill.

A few weeks before Halloween we drove up to Wisconsin to attend my dear friend Roxy Reno’s wedding. Kyle went crazy and drank for almost three days Kerouacian-laced Benzedrine speed-fueled romp. He knocked over chairs while poetically pow-wowing at a bar. He hired a prostitute (when you hire a prostitute they request that you whip out your cock and flash them so they know you are not a cop). Something happen and the prostitute took the money and high-tailed without Kyle getting laid. We came back to P-town and continued to party and, along with Hollye, Daz and Tyler Sutherland give kick-ass readings at the Tartan. The last reading in December Kyle fucking nailed, it, reading his poems,  his breath harnessing and mounting each vowel as if wearing spurs on the orchestral tip of his tongue. He bit into each syllable of his poems, he gnawed and salivated, snorted each line as if it freshly cut capillaries of cocaine. At the finale of each poem he slapped each individual sheath of paper he had typed into the air and began reciting a different piece. The stationary paper from the previously read poem hovered in the air like a shot dove or a kicked-off pair of panties before slowly gravitationally shuffling into the floor of the bar.

Kyle cascaded north to Wisconsin for the holiday. What was tentatively scheduled to be a week long drinking fete was multiplied by three. When he came back from Milwaukee tattered and emotionally bruised. On New Years Eve he was robbed while going to a bar.  There was a lavender welt slit atop his forehead from where the assailant hit him with a  gun. When the greyhound in back to Peoria the bus driver wouldn’t allow him access because he reeked of booze.

He came back to P-town a week later

He continued to drink. Continued to write. Continued to brachiate from barstool to barstool. One night while I was at work the cops were called to my apartment (ahem, this means war Christina, every time you verbally abuse and thrash your progeny DCFS will receive a phone call). The next night he beat up a wanna-be poet who another lifetime ago I considered a brother who after I achieved a modicum success in my craft, completely went out of his way to lambaste my career. Kyle was still drinking every blinking hour but his loyalty was never in doubt. The next night he got into another altercation at a bar. Somehow via his innate poetic charm he continued to get into bars while not having much funds dapperly drinking off the aegis of others (that’s what happens when you are a famous writer…everyone goes out of their way to buy you drinks....ha ha ha).

Two Saturdays before the second Succulent Sobriety was set to convene I had beer in the house only it was hidden because I was anxiety-riddled that had I kept it in the fridge my roommate would indubitably imbibe the bulk of my faretheewell beverage. Three days before I forget and left the beer idling in the fridge. When I came home from work I noticed that Kyle was crashing more than usual. I noticed even more that the cube of Sam Adams Winter favorites had gone unscathed in the fridge. The next day I woke his ass up and asked him to join me for a beer since I had 16 hours left til I voluntarily sprinted into my 40 day moratorium. There was still beer in the fridge which astounded me. When I asked him if he would like to join me for a toast celebrating the secondary introit to me sobriety Kyle declined.

I’d never seem him forgo a beer gratis in my life.

He told me that he was in the hospital last night. I didn’t believe him. I then noticed the plastic band wreathed around the birch of his right wrist like a manacle. I asked him what happen. Kyle informed me in all candor that he didn’t exactly know. He said he was at work and the next thing he knew his entire body crunched up.  That he couldn’t move. That he was paralyzed. That he thought he was having a stroke. That his heart felt like a pregnant timpani about ready to thud into a percussion of exploding thumps. He left his work, traipsed across the street to the liquor store, picked up a 40 and chugged it in twin draughts.  He then went back to work. An hour later his body started pining for more beer. When it was denied it locked. He again felt heart palpitations. He again couldn’t move part of his face. He had a patron dial 9-1-1 and hold the phone up to his ear as he perfunctory explained to the paramedics what was going on.  He then found himself strapped down like a corpse with a pulse in the back of an ambulance that would later charge him 1250 dollars per hour for the 1300 meter scoot from where he works to the emergency doors of Methodist Medical center.  They would sedate him in a room and noodle plastic tubes throughout his slender anatomy and print something out claiming that it was alcohol related and charge him and additional 1000 dollars for his three hours convalesce, insisting that someone pick him up less the hospital be sued.

I wish I would have been there more for Kyle in his time of emotional tumult, only I was wasn’t. I was more concerned with getting fucked up myself. I was more concerned with having one final beer, quaffing one final sudsy soliloquy  before disembarking from the drunken port into the swan song of my own sobriety. I wish I could have been more of a soulful solace, a brother, a best friend.  I wish I wouldnhave told him that the last time I was in the hospital via drinking when everything was perspicuous I was the same exact age he is now, and refrained from telling him that the first thing I did when I arrived back home was take a shower and drown a forty before heading back to work.

I wish I would have told him all this, showed more solicitous concern when he alluded that, after an intense three month binge, after two years of drinking all the time since he was wearing the bracelet, after moving in and one-uping each other beer for beer on an hourly caliber.


Instead I nursed my final beer, a Schlitz tallboy, in my perennial reflective solitude out of a nondescript Styrofoam chalice in Jumer’s parking lot, the palatial penumbra’s of the once majestic castle forming Paleolithic drapes, sails of jigsaw tint splattered on the frozen leftover wedding cake winter of the earth below. I thought about Kyle (who it turns out, went the entire 35 days sans alcoholic beverages with me) and about Elvis and about the great Rick Baker,i.e., ‘Uncle Rick,’ wondering what his genius would chisel out in no-non shit working class hewed  journalistic paragraphs of  blue-collar bliss featuring the still-life status quo of the city I love so much. I can see him writing an opus about Aldi’s closing down the hill, and how a solid fifteen mile radius of lower-income P-town now has to straddle a germ-riddled bus and be escorted across a chilly river just to purchase produce. Or how he would attack the recent soap opera concerning the Stalinesque Super Intendant of District 150 ( whom he would moniker Elphaba a la Wicked, the green-w-envy Witch who Transmogrified the Tin Man so he could live w/out a heart) and my friend educator  extradonaire  John Wetterhauer, who was unjustly targeted in a school district that has always been a few French fires short of an academic happy meal (note: as an alum and proud protect of the South Side institution whose avg high school ACT score is a cumulative 13  don’t get me started) Mr. Wetterhauer who after producing an award winning school almost unparalleled in the last thirty years, Elphaba felt the untoward need to brandish her broomstick and go out of her way to make a man who has worn his heart on the tin of his Charter Oak sleeve before it was plucked by a whiny wanna-be academician (who chose to send her progeny to John’s award winning school) because the spotlight wasn’t on her.


I thought about a lot of things as I took intermittent swigs from the slurpy draught of what would be my final beer for a over month but I mostly thought about the vicissitudes of the body, the fluctuation and digestive tracks, the dated-Christmas bulbs of my kidneys. I wanted to find out what my body would endure. I wanted to delve into indented tufts of non-chemically induced  almost mundane Buddhaesque auras and find out what it felt like to, once again, simply feel.


Crack the sarcophagus of gender notarized flesh I find myself blinking and burrowed for the past 35 years.


Find out what the feels like to feel stranded on the continental cusp of the planet again and find out if I had anything simply left to say.


I was in Jumer's parking lot sifting the final nautical swirls from what was to be my last beer on what all central Illinoisians would concurs has  duly been the most acerbic and unforgiving winter in memory. I wanted to slough the thermal-cocoon of my winter coat. I wand to criss-cross my arms and form an X near my waist line and reel up my shirt. I wanted to unhinge the copper zipper of my jeans, step out of my jeans and undergarments like I was uncoiling a microcosmic fabric of DNA.

I wanted to stroke the fleshy baton, the anatomical cylindrical scroll of my anatomy, a needle to a compass leading nowhere.

I wanted to aim into the forgotten girth of the South end and release myself in the direction of the shoe-box flavored high school where I was sexually molested. Where when I went for help it wasn’t given. I wanted to exonerate the plank of my gender into the steeple (visible from the far south side of Jumer’s parking lot) where I went to church and which served as the social hub of my families existence for the first twenty years and (thinking on tournament weekend about those basketball fucks who took  shit-stained jock strap, pummeled me down in a corner and crowned my head with it in coronation purported savior  bearing  thorns fashion).

I saw all this as I looked into the Styrofoam chalice, tilted my head back and empty the last suds from of the Schlitz tall boy.

I punched a hole in the Styrofoam receptacle.


I littered in Jumer’s parking lot.


Sometimes you have to get naked and lose everything to find out what the fuck is left inside of you.

To find out if you have anything left to say.


I went home. I had bound stalks of vegetables to juice.


I had forty days to figure all this shit out once again.  

1 comment: