Drinking is the purest form of expression I know. I could have been a true artist, you know, a creator of tangible beauty or something. Instead I choose to drink. The bar: my palate. Myself: the canvas. The people: my critics. And when I drink the world, she is my holy oyster.
Like many artists, I have found it useful to ally myself with other artists. My contemporaries were a wild group of young, angry men I did some time with in the Army. The shared misery of military life creates a strong bond between men. We were all in love with each other and in love with drinking. Each of us on our own was a great drunk. Together, it became a bacchanalia of alcoholic frenzy. An orgy of booze. D.C. was our haunt. A miserable place to live, a beautiful place to drink.
There were six in all. Rosie, a wolf in sheep's clothing. Punkey, a brilliant and scrappy drunk. Steve-O, a kind-hearted misanthrope. And Marty, the Alaskan wild man. These guys lived together. Their pad provided the perfect start point for our many nights of drunken debauchery.
This leaves Rick and myself. We lived together. Rick is the devil incognito. With Rasputin-like eccentricities and the soul of a suckerfish, he slashed and burned his way through life and people. Although it was July Fourth, Rick was fiddling around with this Santa Claus suit that he stole from some goddamned place. His lady had brought some friends over to drink and celebrate independence. Out of drink, I grabbed the ladies and went to the store. With booze in hand and drinking in mind, we returned to pick up Rick and his lady. Entering the apartment, I was greeted by a vision that ruined Christmas forever.
Rick's lady was bent over a chair, nude, smoking a cigarette. Behind her, mounted, was Rick wearing his stolen Santa suit. In one hand: a bottle of vodka. In the other: her breast. Dangling from his mouth was a cigarette, which had ignited a small smoldering flame in the fake beard. Pumping wildly, Rick invited all to join in. I had other ideas, grabbed the girls, and headed off for the party.
By the time we hit our friends' place, their Fourth of July potluck had degraded into a drunken brawl. Everyone smashed everything. Broken glass was everywhere. There was nothing left to mix drinks in. We passed the bottle around. Rosie was hitting on someone's wife, which led to a fistfight. More stuff broken. Party over, the drunken mob piled into a cab and headed for D.C.
"Take us to the best spot for the fireworks, my good man!" shouted Rick.
"The fireworks ended two hours ago, my friend," replied the cabbie.
"You worthless fuck, you shitfaced backstabbing motherfucker, I should fucking kill you, you little fucking rat!" shrieked Rick.
"Help me, they want to kill me!" shouted the cabbie into his mike.
"Stop this fucking car now before someone gets wasted!" I chimed in.
"Hey man, I can't be fuckin' around with any cops," said Marty, whose past transgressions couldn't accommodate any scrutiny from the heat.
"You guys ruin everything, I hate you," mentioned Steve-O.
The cabbie stopped in the middle of some goddamned highway skirting Georgetown. We all got out except Steve-O, who was making some kind of statement. He calmly locked the door and flipped us the bird. We started kicking the cab. Steve-O just laughed. The cab sped off. Steve-O claims to have woken up in a car parked at National Airport.
Unfazed, we went to a bar we loved in Georgetown. It was a small piano bar and they knew us there. Better, they liked us. We kept things rolling. Rick and Rosie had disappeared with a couple of girls. Two days later, they called from a jail in South Carolina. I hung up the phone and unplugged it.
The remaining three sat at the piano and instructed the barmaid to serve up a round of gin and tonics and keep em' filled. She did. We drank. The piano guy played. We sang. We filled the entire surface of the piano with empties. Every time we killed a bottle, they added it to the collection. In two hours, we drank three bottles of gin. The bar closed and we spilled onto the streets. Broke, we walked home. In the night, someone played a saxophone. We stopped, listened, talked, laughed, and then, slept. A summer rain came in and cleansed us of our sins.