Sunday Advice Column #12

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Tomorrow I will write my 100th post. This marks the longest stretch of creative work I’ve ever done. Some of it has been good, some of it not so much. It’s been creeping towards a consistently earnest voice, though, and that’s my jam.

The advice column has been my favorite thing to write. It always ends up being too much about me because I’m prone to autobiographical narcissism as a tool for self understanding, but it does allow me to get out of my own experience a bit and think about others.

Anyway, here goes number 12.

Is it ok to be angry?

 Yes. Yes it is. It’s a completely natural and underrated emotion. The thing to be careful with about anger, other than potentially turning to the Dark Side, is that you do not say or do anything you might later regret. This takes discipline.

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Keeping a furious rage kindling in your heart without lashing out or appearing to be a twat is not always easy. Whatever you do, don’t be verbally abusive to people you care about. And don’t write checks your ass can’t cash when dealing with strangers.

I give two thumbs up to riding rage waves, but it has to be done in style. Quiet, slow building anger, the kind that Clint Eastwood displayed in The Unforgiven is what you’re going for. Not a toddler with a full diaper or girl caught with a fake ID fit.

How do I know if I should quit drinking?

I’m going to refer to “drinking” as a stand in for any addictive behavior in this answer. You might have a drinking problem, but you could have any number of addictive tendencies. Drinking is just the most common because alcohol is everywhere.

One of my favorite books on addiction is Dr. Gabor Matte’s In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts. It’s about the Dr.’s experience treating addicts at a flop-house populated by severe addicts in Vancouver, Canada. It’s like reading a novelized version of the show Intervention. The Dr. is very empathetic because he has his own addiction; he obsessively collects classical music CDs.

I definitely relate to that weird obsession. I am almost powerless to buying obscure books. I currently own more unread books than I could probably read in three years. I was always a heavy reader, but when I quit drinking, I became obsessive about it. That’s the trick to managing addiction. You have to get hooked on something more positive. Exercise is a pretty good one to get hooked on.

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I love romantic comedies.

No one ever asks about cutting back on drinking. The people who need to cut back either do, or they don’t and they end up in trouble. If you’re already asking about this, there’s probably trouble afoot.

There are a few classic indicators you might have a drinking problem that needs attention. The first is that people are telling you there’s a problem. Or they’re expressing concern. If this is happening to you, you probably have good friends that actually care about you. You should at least hear them out. If you feel the need to create an elaborate defense  about how you’re doing fine and it’s just a part of your master Andy Kauffman-like plan to dominate the world, it’s time to come to Jesus. You’re fucking up.

The second indicator is that you’re floundering at work. If your performance is diminished either by showing up wasted or severely hung over, you’ve got a big problem. The best way to keep fucking up and drinking without consequence is to own a bar, but know that your employees will hate you and steal from you, and that you deserve it.

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Leaving Las Vegas is inspirational. 

The third indicator is that you are no longer doing things you enjoy because of drinking. Maybe you skip the gym. You might not meet up with your buddies to play Dungeons & Dragons. When drinking becomes the thing you like more than anything else you get very boring. Boredom is the devil’s playground.

I quit drinking when I was 22. I didn’t go to AA meetings. I didn’t go to rehab. I just quit. This is not the normal route for most people, so I don’t have ay groundbreaking secrets.

Going turkey like I did and staying off the sauce is incredibly rare. I actually kind of have a biological advantage for this. I get severe hangovers. My hangovers involve puking, diarrhea, heartburn, and migraines. The cost of drinking was so severe; it was an easy decision to make. It was rough going for about a month, but mainly because so much of my identity was tied into being a person who would get hammered and do crazy shit.

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Mondays. Right?

I didn’t ever go to meetings myself, but I did have the benefit of being very close friends with some other sober bartenders, most notably my best friend Josh. I really credit him with showing that not drinking was possible. Mrs. Lott is also a non-drinker, and that is huge for me.

If any part of this answer resonates, I think the best thing you can do is look for an AA style meeting. I’ve known people to go and realize they just needed to tighten a few things up, there’s something about hearing a truly awful story from someone who’s fucked up way worse that straightens people out.

What is the best thing that’s ever happened to you as a result of being nice?

I don’t know that anything particularly good happens to the nice, just for the sake of being nice. I’m interested in being kind because of the way it makes me feel. I want to live in a world of kind people, but it’s the times when I wasn’t so nice that correlate to forward movement in my life.

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This is how Woodstock died.

The world seems to be set up as a “kill or be killed” paradigm. What I like most about being nice, and where I get the most out of it, is it’s a big fuck you to the entropy and indifferent cruelty of the universe. It’s a way of saying “I will not bend to this chaos, this hatred.” Unfortunately I bend too often. But I’m working on it. I’m working on being kind. And so should you.

What’s the one thing you’ve eaten, only to regret it moments later?

It’s a toss up between LSD and a cold cow stomach salad I had in San Francisco with my buddy Chef Mike.

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When I was growing up, an old lady who was our neighbor told us she was a witch. To prove it, she told us she had the mark of a witch, a tooth growing from her tongue. When she stuck out her tongue, sure enough, there was a white tooth sticking out of it. She scared us into doing chores for her, like take out her trash. Was she a witch? What was the thing on her tongue?

 Let’s start with the tongue thing. Without seeing it myself, it’s hard to know what was actually going on. I think it would’ve either been a fake tooth prop or some kind of tumor. I looked through a bunch of websites that deal with dental anomalies and malformations, and didn’t find anything that really seemed to match. That said, there’re all kinds of crazy mutations that occur in this world. I don’t think it would’ve been impossible for it to be real.

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As a connoisseur of the strange and the supernatural, I’ve never heard this malformation used to prove witchery. Though, a “witch’s spot” was used by the inquisition to indentify who was to be burned at the stake. You can get a copy of an old book, The Malleus Malfernacum (The Witch’s Hammer), written as a manual for with hunters during the Dark Ages.

What people believed back then was unbelievably fucked up. But people still believe all kinds of dumb shit. This old lady probably wasn’t a witch, but she definitely was a manipulative creep.

 

 

 

 

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