Monday, October 6, 2008

Whiskey, Cigarettes & Love Letters

Somewhat of an extended version of Goodie Drawers.

I remember a particularly late summer night when I was 21 and out drinking with some female friends. They were talking about their "goodie drawers" and how sometimes the wrong people had seen the contents. I didn't have much to offer, so I just sat there listening and sipping my pint. The girls shared some funny stories about their goodie drawers and the items tucked away inside: vibrators, lube, condoms, sex toys, et cetera.

I chuckled to myself, and one of the girls gave me a sly smile before asking, "Why? What's in your goodie drawer, Jake?"I grinned, thought about my response, and replied, "Whiskey, cigarettes and love letters."

There was a long pause at the table.

It was true. Whiskey, cigarettes and love letters were all I kept in my night stand for a long while. But these three items are also my balance beam, still remaining as the three key components to the best/worst possible night in my opinion.And that may just be what all goodie drawers really are anyway: the fork in the road when you decide to go north or south.

But that sort of traveling wears out a lifetime on the soul, when what we love can kill us and what we hate can have a sleeping spot in our prettiest dreams. I mean, who wasn't been a wayward traveler some nights?

Remember that a condom can lead to fun, but could surely follow with bad morning revelations and photographs of exes can lead to nostalgia but could surely end in bad evening revelations.

Just for the record though, this isn't the same speech that you've heard from forlorn lovers, where they say that their counterpart could make or break them. This isn't the part of the passage where you realize that we're all _________________________ (insert overused metaphor here).

I'm saying that we each have these things that can make for the worst evening we've ever put our eyes and hands through while remaining our favorite possessions. We keep what's dearest in the drawer next to us so that we keep what's closest to us closest. I'm talking about medication that your doctor doesn't know you prescribe yourself.

I spent a summer well when I was 20 (bike-riding during the day and partying at night). But I recall my best evenings to be spent with a Chet Baker record moving slowly while I had a cigarette or two with Jack Daniels on my back porch, looking over handwritten love letters. And I recall my worst evenings being spent the same way. Same ingredients, same recipe, different hunger.

There's poetry in the swift movement of pretty butterflies with prettier chainsaws. I suppose that I consider self-destruction and self-loathing to be cyclical, as I've always wanted to believe that you can do so bad that you've done good. And I find the balance beam walkers of glory and danger to be extraordinary and magnificent.

So, of course, I've always been attracted to the broken writer ego (one day, they'll cry for you beyond an education, Fitzgerald) where you imagine the writer slumped over at his desk and you don't know if it's from exhaustion or drugs, where you feel the writer's agonizing blood in the words, where the writer pens the book on morals on Saturday but sleeps through church on Sunday because of a hangover.

You want their epitaph to read like so: "Here lies that famous writer you were taught so eloquently in school. The only thing he did better than write was drink and here lies the evidence. The words and women didn't kill him. Wild, ain't it?"

It's that balance beam walk that grips us.

You just have to look over what you keep closest to you, know what's capable of making and breaking you, as every kitchen knife can help you cook dinner or can go straight through your chest (Cheers, Elliott Smith).

Now ask yourself: what's in your goodie drawer?

No comments: