The Reason For Cold Turkey

Hello, January! That magic time of year when weeks of unbridled decadence skid to a halt puddling into a big pile of regret and shame. It is time for a reckoning. (Doesn’t it feel like the holiday excuse period starts earlier and earlier? Using Labor Day as a free pass for excess is weaksauce. Nobody is buying “What the hell, it’s Labor Day!” as a valid reason to have cheese dip for breakfast. You do you. Just have the cheese dip. Why you gotta blame Labor Day?) January is the month when it’s time to rein in all those shenanigans and act like an adult, for Pete’s sake. Shed those extra pounds from all that gravy and chocolate. Return those superfluous gifts you overbought. In my case, January detox also commences the annual Big Cleanup, purging a year’s worth of crap that’s turned every surface of my living space into a junk drawer.

It was in the process of shoveling out one of those squirrel-nest piles that I found three fancy little books of cocktail recipes that I completely forgot that I owned. I probably had big intentions of featuring the books in some Pinterest-worthy, artfully arranged bar display with fancy empty antique bottles and brass corkscrews. I got really close to doing it, too, in that I bought these three books and shoved them in a drawer four years ago. Take THAT, Pinterest. Flipping through the books, I got to thinking about the tight relationship between writing and booze. Lots of authors like to bring the party to the page. Literature featuring booze is like a big liquor store: from cheap peach schnapps to pricey Scotch that smells like old socks, there is something for everyone. Here are some that made an impression on me.

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) The Great Gatsby is the book that really showed America how to get lit. Main character Jay Gatsby, putting out bait to attract his former love and current neighbor rich girl Daisy Buchanan, turns his exclusive West Egg, Long Island estate into neighborhood central for a 24/7 throwdown. His party only has two rules: Look fabulous and make bad choices. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “everybody in the club getting tipsy.”* Fitzgerald knew a thing or two about parties, having codified uninhibited and licentious behavior in his collection of short stories, Tales Of The Jazz Age. For all of his literary success, Fitzgerald never felt a part of the elite American wealthy society that he made so famous. That bittersweet longing for inclusion is brilliantly expressed in the book’s narrator Nick Carraway’s attendance at Gatsby’s endless, gin-soaked party. Nick is there, he’s an invited guest, he is welcomed by his host, and yet he can’t shake the feeling that he’s still on the outside looking in. As if with his nose pressed against the glass, peering in the window, Nick walks us through the kind of inevitable debauchery that results when a party is underwritten by organized crime and sponsored by a lovesick pretender.

*Possibly J-Kwon**
**Definitely J-Kwon

Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails With A Literary Twist (Tim Federle) This book of cocktail concoctions proves there is a niche audience at the intersection of English Major Ave and Fully Stocked Bar St. I always thought I was the only person who lived at that address but LOOK. I HAVE ROOMMATES. Page after page of beverages, all inspired by and named for classic works of literature? SQUEEEEEE. Eventually, I’ll get around to making one of the many outstanding drinks in this book, but for now, it’s not necessary because I’m just drunk on all the literary references and stellar puns. As a bonus, this book’s list of classic titles fleshed out my TBR list. (How could I have forgotten I haven’t read The Unbearable Lightness of Being?) One day, I am going to meet author Tim Federle and make him several Pitchers of Dorian Grey Gooses. (Geese? Pitchers of Dorian Grey Geese? I need to work this out before Tim gets here….or just avoid the whole question and make him a batch of Woman In White Russians.)

Postcards From The Edge (Carrie Fisher) The main character in Carrie Fisher’s debut novel is an equal-opportunity substance abuser, so we’re not limited to alcohol here. This semi-autobiographical story of a working actress with a famous mother coping with her day-to-day life LA after rehab pulls no punches as it chronicles the reality of living the glamorous life in the world’s biggest fishbowl. It’s hilarious, heartbreaking, and above all brutally honest. Carrie Fisher is unique in her ability to take cringeworthy, painful situations and craft side-splitting comedy while never succumbing to self-pity. It gives her work an emotional integrity that resonates long after you’ve stopped laughing.

“The Swimmer” (John Cheever) For every cheerful depiction of the convivial camaraderie of drinking, there is someone living the toxic nightmare of addiction. John Cheever captures the dark, chaotic recklessness of chronic alcoholism in his startling short story, “The Swimmer”. Surreal and hypnotic, the story depicts the slow collapse of a life dragged under by habitual benders and the hazy confusion brought on by too many booze-induced blackouts. Cheever knew a thing or two about drinking to excess. His lifelong struggle with alcoholism was a family affair, with his father and his brother both sufferers, and Cheever almost died from an alcohol-induced embolism before he was able to quit drinking for good. In “The Swimmer”, Cheever depicts the pain and vulnerability at the core of self-destructive behavior while avoiding showing any sympathy for the damage that it does. It’s poignant, enlightening, and a little scary.

Honorable Mention: The Secret History (Donna Tartt) Get drunk with your friends! Pretend you’re a deer! Maybe kill some people! HAHAHHAHAHAHA parties are fun!





Action Item
For more silly words about The Secret History, click here. And, for the record, I will happily make Pitchers Of Dorian Grey Gooses/Geese for Donna Tartt any time she wants.

The Reason To Close Out The Tab

I am all kinds of sluggish right now. Do not feel sorry for me because I brought it on myself. If I don’t know by now that the second martini on a school night is a stupid idea, then I deserve exactly what I am getting. Still, it’s a bummer to know that there isn’t a good time to be had that doesn’t have some kind of payback. Scream your lungs out at a concert-lose your voice for a week. Enter a chili dog eating contest-get an upset stomach. Bingeread a fabulous book-ok, can’t think of a downside for that one. Indulgence demands balance, so at some point or another, everyone gets a hangover.

Ancient peoples could not account for the severity of their hangovers, attributing splitting headaches and the morning-after craving for ancient pancakes to angry gods. Now, after a big night out, you only have to go back 12 hours on your Instagram feed to find out what went down. There you are, in the backseat of your Uber, chugging Fireball. FIREBALL. What the hell were you thinking?  The night before, it’s all spontaneous musical numbers and high fives. It’s a magic bubble of invincibility, and since nothing can hurt you that fourth margarita is a good idea! And yes you can stay out until 4! You’ll be fine with 2 hours sleep! Of course you never are. The morning after brings the need for several extra strength Tylenol and a fountain Coke, and no small measure of gratitude that you woke up at home. As opposed to waking up covered in mud, blood, and body parts, because that is what happens when Donna Tartt is in charge.

First, a PSA: I am glad that Donna Tartt is a writer, because she writes my favorite books and I love having favorite books. Her novels are epic in scale, with her characters coming to terms with life events experienced at violent extremes. Some overcome, and some fail spectacularly, and it’s impossible to look away even when you can see what’s coming is not going to end well. The Secret History (Knopf, 1992) is a murder mystery reverse engineered from what is essentially a solved crime. The book opens with a confession to a murder, revealing that a cliquish group of six friends have killed one of their own, Bunny Corcoran, staging a hiking accident by pushing him down a ravine. The story then centers on the backstory of the motivation for Bunny’s death and the friends’ tangled and twisted relationships. Donna Tartt explores the way that the human desire turns into greed – greed for knowledge, greed for experience, greed for power – and how that greed turns cancerous.

Donna Tartt publishes one incredible book about every 10 years. I assume she could publish an incredible book anytime she wants to, but she is a badass who does not care how many books you think she should publish. The Secret History was her first book and it was an immediate bestseller, making her a literary star. This book shows how toxic hubris and arrogance are and movingly illustrates the beauty inherent in sacrificing for the ones you love. It also gives me perspective on my own wild nights, because there’s hangovers, and then there’s The Secret History hangovers.

My hangover: My head hurts and that light is too bright
Secret History hangover: Can anyone confirm or deny that we killed a dude last night

My hangover: Wow, I danced for several hours!
Secret History hangover: I drank myself into a fugue state

My hangover: I thought we’d never go home
Secret History hangover: I thought I was a deer

My hangover: I need greasy diner food
Secret History hangover: Breakfast is booze, cigarettes, and determining an alibi

My hangover: I’m taking a nap
Secret History hangover: Let’s invite Bunny to go on a hike

There’s always a price to be paid after a party is over, and if Donna Tartt is writing the hangover, payback isn’t just bitch. It’s a bitch with a baseball bat and access to all of your bank accounts. It makes me a little bit glad that I’m a book nerd with a love of down time. My “about last night” stories aren’t as flashy but then again I don’t have to budget for as much bail money. Still, some nights do go on longer than others. If you’ve got a hangover, please feel free to consult the handy chart below to triage your situation and determine the most efficient cure.

Symptoms: You have a limp from the 50-yard dash someone dared you to run. Your hair hurts and you require sunglasses to brush your teeth.
Hangover Level: Tore up from the floor up
Cure: Ketchup-based fast food and one whiny Facebook status post.

Symptoms: Right hand has three nightclub stamps on it. Left wrist has a medical id bracelet from a colonic clinic. You’re still dressed, but the bra you are wearing isn’t yours.
Hangover Level: Run over by a truck
Solution: Travel back in time and make new friends who won’t encourage you to qualify for Olympic Beer Pong. It isn’t even a real sport.

Symptoms: The good news is you’re awake and at home. The bad news is the dog woke you up because he’s hungry, but you don’t own a dog. Or the motorcycle in your living room.
Hangover Level: Football bat
Solution: Feed the dog. Change your name and move.


I like your motorcycle.

Action Items
Watch The Philadelphia Story, the best movie about hangovers ever.