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It Takes More to Be a Drunk Than a Non-Drunk

Updated on May 28, 2012

Guts and Writing

For All My Friends

In "Bar Fly" Mickey Rourke as Charles Bukowski says, "It is easier to be a non-drunk than a drunk." You have to think about it a minute or so, but the comment is really quite true. For anyone who has attempted to extend a bender, they will have found that maintaining a state of drunkenness beyond 2-3 days is practically unsustainable. The body simply rebels at the constant influx of alcohol.

One of the problems is that in order to remain significantly drunk, you have to consume greater and greater quantities, and this is barely sustainable. Simply drinking consistently will not do the trick. Drinking at a constant level will eventually lead to a state that a friend of mine called "drinking yourself sober." To go beyond this, to go into the realm that Bukowski visited requires a tremendous amount of stamina because our bodies want to reject this constant influx of poison.

In his writings Bukowski wrote about repeated morning periods hovering over the porcelain goddess. That is to be expected on a physiological level. To return to drinking after such episodes takes real endurance. It may very well be a self-destructive endurance, but it's an endurance nonetheless.

One might very well ask, why not just kill yourself instead of creeping toward death by obliterating one's liver. This is a subject for debate, but my guess would be that individuals like Bukowski had no intention of committing suicide. They cared enough about life to write, listen to Gustav Mahler, and have brawls at the local bar. Bukowski struggled to exist from one day to the next, but without thinking about it, without planning it or putting much effort into the task.

Living this kind of life involved a number of deprivations including not eating enough and having unpredictable moods and responses to the external world. He has become the stuff of legend because of his wanton disregard for all things that were structured and regimented. This is what he resisted (successfully) and what cast him into the realm as the ultimate anti-hero.

All of us, to a greater or larger extent would like to rebel against the establishment. We'd all like to turn up at an interview with greasy hair, a stained shirt, puffing on a cigarette, bombed, and give absolutely honest answers to the human resources representative. Yes, it takes a great deal of stamina to walk into an office, hoping for a job, and present ourselves in such a fashion. There were more things that Bukowski DIDN'T want to do than he did. He didn't want to take a shower, brush his teeth or create a resume. Perhaps a fraction of the people reading this might identify.

The man was far from an idiot. Even inebriated he created some marvelous short stories and poems. Somehow the booze brought forth the best in him, one could argue. The alcohol brought him to write on a level of honesty and directness that the literary world hadn't seen before. His works first appeared in small-time literary magazines and slowly became well enough admired to reach broader publication. By living among the the sewage of Los Angeles he picked up quite a number of story ideas. In this writer's opinion he exaggerated (a great deal) his successes with women among this atmosphere. The man was ugly as hell and had no redeeming qualities except perhaps a callous form of honesty, so I cannot see where this would endear him to the number of women he claimed to have enjoyed.

Nonetheless, his initial statement that it took more to be a drunk than a non-drunk still holds up. This certainly doesn't put a golden halo around his head, but for a lumbering, pock-marked, drunken poet, he eventually created quite a swirl around himself. How much of it was real and how much of it was fiction will never be determined -- and it doesn't really matter. The beastly drunk is dead now, and all we have are his writings that seem semi-autobiographical, but who knows. What ultimately matters is whether a reader finds his fictional work to be engrossing or the opposite.

For myself, I find his prose to be whimsical, self-deprecating, back-assed charming, exaggerated, but always punchy and somehow honest. For those who viewed the movie "Bar Fly" his fights in back of the bar kind of epitomized the man himself -- able to take a horrendous pounding (probably due to his intoxication), and defiant to the point of being able to win his matches by sheer stubbornness, willpower and tenacity.

A Reading


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