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Craig Taylor

Three Incidents in My Drinking Life

 

My Berkeley Mai Tai

The menu didnít show the tropics
nor did it mention that the drink would be served
in a goldfish bowl, so I ordered one because
I was alone and

celebrating something

on one of my evenings in California.

But a strange mood overtakes a bar when a single man,

tired and

wearing a wrinkled blue dress shirt orders a drink

that comes with three yellow umbrellas,

a thick wedge of fresh pineapple,

and a grudging song that the

waitress has to sing to the embarrassment of them both.

"Thanks," I said to her when she was finished with the song,

which had a sad,

lopsided, Kon-Tiki melody,

like a Martin Denny record

left too close to the heater.

Another patron gave a few half-hearted claps.

"Yeah, well, enjoy your drink."


A Pitcher Hitting A Bird With A Baseball

I saw the clip, a random piece of footage,

a few hours after my Mai Tai

in a loud sports bar in Berkeley.

There was no sound

coming from the TV, so

when the pitcherís incoming fastball connected, the bird

just exploded in silence,

leaving a few feathers adrift before the ump called time.

"Whatíve you been up to?" the woman behind the bar

asked the guy next to me.

Awful and truly American guitar music was coming

from the speakers. No one else

had witnessed the death.

"Nothing," he said.

"Are you happy?"

"Iím really happy."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Which seemed to be, in my drunk

and self-righteous state,

the epitome of Californian speech, the best

this place could offer in the dashing cut-and-thrust

of conversation. But I was already spending my evening high above

everyone,

on a level of fragrant sophistication,

having just bought a copy of Walt Whitmanís Leaves of Grass

for 50 cents from a bookstore on Telegraph.

I still havenít actually read it.

I may never read it.

But in Berkeley, on that night, Leaves of Grass

was in a brown bag at my feet,

like a hidden intellectual purpose.

Suddenly they were playing the clip again, but

crosscutting it with shots

of the sports showís host, a man who glistened on camera.

They slowed the footage down. And there,

coming out of the pitcherís hand,

was the fastball. And there, in the corner, was the

bird, both parties hesitating

in the jitter and jump of the playback

until one moved forward

and the other moved forward. In that way they crept

towards each other. And

in that birds are certain and tossed baseballs are certain

and sports shows are true,

both of them died again for a second silent time

in that Berkeley sports bar

and stayed that way,

still in the frame of the television set,

until the camera finally cut to golf.


Being Drunk On The Coney Island Beach, But Still Drinking A Corona

Which Was Hidden In My Sock

 

There it was and had to be, all spread out

on the Coney Island boardwalk: the dancing contest,

the fetid hot dog stands, the toilets

emblazoned with a maple leaf insignia,

(which for a moment I guessed

was the New York symbol for shit.)

The white people,

the spanish men in nut-hugger shorts, pale asians,

policemen nodding

to the crowd. It streamed by:

the black girls held in by their knitted bikinis,

Chinese tattoos wrapped around their biceps,

pushing a couple baby carriages effortlessly, as if they were pushing

nothing heavier than the dayís warm air.

Then the kids from Kids, the kids from New Jersey (with last seasonís

girlfriends), the kids from Ohio,

as wide-eyed as me, with their Catholic school pullovers

tied around their waists.

There were three of us and we went to the beach.

I held off the urge to take off my shoes

for as long as I possibly could.

The beach looked fine; for as many needles,

condoms, and Tootsie Roll wrappers

that lay buried in the strata of Coney,

the sand that sits on top is shiny,

well combed,

a giant, beautiful piece of lycra covering the

horrible reality of the ass that must lie beneath.

Only overflowing trash cans spoil it,

each one an oil well on an Alaskan reserve,

spouting up long-buried Slurpee containers

and half-chewed strands of red licorice.

The Atlantic was choppy but agreeable.

We passed a body builder

with skin like undercooked bacon, who was holding

a small polaroid photo of himself

in a classic Charles Atlas pose,

just holding the picture,

staring it down.

There were mothers breastfeeding, kids molding sandcastles,

wiping their hands in wet lines along the sand.

We finally sat

and watched a Spanish woman tack her way across the beach,

holding a red and white cooler that kept banging against her leg.

"Corona," she said to us

in that small, haphazard way.

"What?"

"Corona."

My friend Kim looked over at me. I was already

pulling folded one dollar bills

from my back pocket.

"But isnít it illegal to drink on the beach?"

I asked when the transaction was done and the woman

was winding her way back to the boardwalk.

"I think thereís some sort of brown bag rule

where you have to cover it up."

It was then I finally took off my shoes and both of my thin,

gray, womanly ankle socks.

I held one out to Kim.

"Put it in this."

Our options were few, so she did,

pushing the beer into my

sock until only the neck was visible. Dark gray

patches, wet and spreading

formed on the side.

We sat on the sand and passed the bottle.

There were lines of kids

crouched in the shallow water in front of us,

asses in the air, waiting for the next wave.

When it finally curled,

they plunged forward,

faces into foam,

then lifted their faces and opened their eyes

and just the fact that the beach was still there delighted them.

It felt like the last great place

in the New York summer. Kim passed me the beer

in the sock and I tilted it to my mouth

expecting to smell my own feet

but getting nothing

but the tang of beer and ocean air.


Craig Taylor is the editor of Anonymous Juice (www.anonymousjuice.com). In 2000 he designed, illustrated, and helped edit Open Letters, a magazine of first person correspondence. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the National Post, and Vice. He contributes a weekly column to The Guardian in London, England, where he currently lives.

 

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