Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A career in alcoholism: man in Manhattan

“I am a career alcoholic.“ Tony, all smiles, energy and with a bottle of Bud in his hand, materialised beside me one evening in a bar in Manhattan where I had gone to shelter from a drizzle, have a drink and get a little peace.

Having established my name and country of origin, he told me about his career as an alcoholic. “It makes me feel good,” he declared. “What else matters?” I agreed. He was in that state of elation which, in some people, can turn ugly in a second if you put a different point of view.

He seemed in good shape for a guy who had made a career out of being an alcoholic. He was fifty years old, he told me. His hair was jet black, he was only a little overweight and he was light on his feet. Tony hopped around quite a lot as he talked and he sometimes danced in place to the music.

“Lose the hair,” he told me. “It will take ten years off your age.”

There was much that I couldn’t understand of what he said because he spoke so fast. For instance, I could not make sense of his explanation for why he, personally, knows global warming is real. “See this burn mark?” he said at one point, putting his hand to his forehead, as part of his explanation. There was nothing there but I said I had seen it anyhow.

Then he started talking about his ex-wife, “the evil one”, and how she had unsuccessfully tried to get his kids to say he had molested them.

“I am telling you this because you are elder,” he said. I am definitely going to lose the hair, I told myself.

He took out his wallet and showed me photographs of his kids. They were graduation photographs, three girls and a boy, all looking happy and proud of themselves.

He told me I was a good listener. Not bad, I suppose, when all you’re trying to do is avoid an argument.

Two young women, maybe in their twenties, came into the bar and sat down. Tony started to chat them up. The young women laughed it off but Tony’s attention had definitely turned in their direction.

I said goodbye and left. I expect he is still dancing in the bar in Manhattan, chatting women up, explaining global warming and showing pictures of his kids to other customers. I hope the career works out.

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