Acid Heroes: the Legends of LSD

May 19, 2014

Bourbon whiskey

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One of my Facebook friends,  Parks,  saw the photo of me that I posted with the bottle of Jim Beam and wrote:  “Dude, just do it and save yourself.  This looks like a booze advertisement, we know the truth, it isn’t cute or cool and will finish you off.  Lay it down and focus on creative things, brother.”

That struck a nerve.  Because the last thing I want to do is romanticize my drinking. I never said drinking was “cute or cool.”  I’ve always felt excessive drug and alcohol consumption is primarily a symptom of mental torment, moreso than “partying.”  That said, I’ve always felt  my primary function as a creative artist was to capture the different states and stages of my life — by writing, cartoons, photos, music, whatever.  I see my life as primarily an endless series of polaroids (I guess they call them “selfies” nowadays). And, needless to say, some of the pictures aren’t always flattering.

Another Facebook friend, Martyn, wrote: “You don’t solve problems by putting more problems inside you.  The answer is to face up to them and be tougher than them.”

Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t look at life primarily as a problem to be solved.  I look at life mostly as a series of weird, dream-like images, of which I sort of ponder the meanings and symbolism and mystery of.

Another Facebook friend, Thomas,  asked me if I had the “shakes.”  He had heard that “noticeable  DTs is a threshold point which you really should seek medical help.”

Nah.  My hangovers are mostly psychological: suicidal depressions and extreme embarrassment at having made a fool of myself.  Though I will say, after polishing off that fifth of Jim Beam in 24 hours (along with the sudden combination of 100 degree Arizona desert heat) I still feel a little woozy two days later).  But yeah, the “shakes” is a sad one.  I’ve spent years living with hardcore street alkies where they wake up in the morning with the shakes and have to pound a quick beer just to get normal.  Whatever “normal” is.

Another Facebook friend, Jon, said: “You know, I used to drink a lot. But then it just gradually tapered off to almost non-existent.  I never did make a conscious decision to stop drinking.”

That’s the interesting thing about alcohol.  I’ve known many alcoholics where nothing worked except AA.  Total abstinence.  While others can get a grip by tapering off.  I once went 5 years without drink or drugs.  And it wasn’t a matter of will power, but because I was in such a high mental state from meditating that I didn’t want to tamper with it.  But, alas, I couldn’t sustain it.  For whatever reason the meditating stopped working and I went back to the sauce.

For me, the great paradox of alcohol has always been: Over the years I’ve seen so many people who’s lives and/or health was ruined by alcohol.  And yet, alcohol has also been part of some of the best times of my life.  And everything in between.  I guess that’s why it’s so hard for me to get a bead on the stuff.

By the time you reach my age (57) most of your drinking and drugging buddies have either cleaned up their act, or are dead.  Mostly the latter in my case.

Jon said:  “I couldn’t even tell you the last time I used a recreational drug.  Caffeine and alcohol are my drugs of choice.”

I could have easily went WAY overboard with the “recreational drugs.”  The thing that saved me from becoming a hardcore druggie was I hated the whole routine of “scoring” drugs. That whole stupid dance involving sketchy people and sketchy scenes.  Plus cops.  I figured it was simpler to just go down to  7-11 and buy a damn 40.  Ha ha.   Even the word “scoring” had sleazy connotations to me.  This sleazy quasi-sexual overtone.  Like you’re trying to score with a chick at a bar or something.

One of the worst things about getting into crack or meth — aside from the obvious toxic nature of those substances — is that you suddenly find yourself in the middle of all these “social scenes” with people who are even more fucked up than you are.

One of my favorite writers, Charles Bukowski, wrote often about alcohol.  While Bukowski always maintained a bit of a romantic idea about himself and his life (no matter how sordid it sometimes got) I don’t think you could accuse him of romanticizing his drinking.  Bukowski ruthlessly wrote about  the truth of his alcoholism, both positive and negative.  With Bukowski, you certainly knew what was in store for you when you went down that path, that’s for sure.  Which is all you can really ask of a writer.  One of his most harrowing (and hilarious, in a gallow’s humor way) stories was about when he blew a big hole in his stomach from drinking all that rot-gut, was spitting up blood and came just about as close to dying as you can come.   They threw him in the basement of the charity ward hospital, basically to die.  But somehow Bukowski pulled through.  When they were releasing him from the hospital, the doctor told him: “If you have one more drink you’ll be a dead man.”  Bukowski was so freaked out about that, he went into the first bar he passed and bought himself a drink. The bastard went on to live another 30 years.

The cartoonist, R. Crumb, described Bukowski as “a difficult guy to hang out with in person.  When he was in social situations  he desperately wanted to numb himself with alcohol.  He was very uncomfortable around people; a very solitary guy, basically.”

That would probably describe me, too.  I guess the beguiling thing about most drugs and alchohol is that they often work in the short term, but rarely in the long term.

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10 Comments »

  1. Bukoski was so good at spinning the myth of his life. Truth is, after he got out of the hospital he moved in with his parents and quit drinking altogether for 5 years. Didn’t start drinking again until he was able to support himself on his writing. He primarily drank wine (occational whiskey), worked out, & took lots of vitamins.

    Comment by Jon — May 19, 2014 @ 11:07 pm | Reply

  2. Its been awhile since I’ve read a Bukwoski bio. And its important to note his work is FICTION. But I think you may be wrong. Bukowski went into the hospital in 1954, And in 1955 he married Barbara Frye a very rich woman who he sort of lived off of for two years. Mom died a year after I thibnk

    Comment by Ace Backwords — May 19, 2014 @ 11:20 pm | Reply

    • I do know that his “Factotum” fiction was largly based on that 10 year run of suicidal drinking, but that after he got out of the hospital he did largely clean up his act. I do enjoy videos of his readings. He would show up sober, get so uncomfortable at having to be in front of all those people, start pounding down beers to calm his nerves, gag, puke, on the way to the stage.

      Comment by Jon — May 19, 2014 @ 11:39 pm | Reply

      • I’ve never read about Bukowski moving back in with his parents. Though its certainly possible. Bukowski’s life was probably an “open book” moreso than most writers. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he glossed over certain details. Considering how much he hated his father I’m not surprised he wouldnt be eager to write about moving back in with him. . . The only times I can remember Buk writing about his parents after he left home, if Im not mistaken his father actually visited him when he was in the hospital. And he visited his mother on her deathbed. The father had declared her insane and had her locked up in the nut house so he could marry his mistress. And she said: “You were right, Henry. Your father was a terrible man!” Which must have been cathartic for Buk since she had always sided with the father all those years. . . If any Buk fans know of anymore latter day interactions between Buk and his family I’d be fascinated to hear them.

        Comment by Ace Backwords — May 20, 2014 @ 12:44 am

      • I think Bukowski once described his writing as “95% non-fiction. And 5% I improve on reality.” Or something like that.

        Comment by Ace Backwords — May 20, 2014 @ 12:47 am

      • Somebody could probably write a book: “The Biography of Bukowski’s Drinking. Trace his different preferences during the different periods of his life. I remember reading a Rolling Stone interview in 1976 and they buy two six packs of beer, come home, Buk puts the beer on his livingroom table, as opposed to the refrigerator. Its apparent he’s planning to drink both 6 packs on one sitting. Ha ha…… And he definitely was hittung the hard liquor during the “Woman” period. But he credits his last wife with adding ten years to his life by switching him from the hard stuff to mostly good red wines. But he was still sipping cocktails at bars during the “Hollywood” period.

        Comment by Ace Backwords — May 20, 2014 @ 1:00 am

      • Reminds me of a famous Hunter S. Thompson story that George McGovern used to tell. They go out to dinner, McGovern, his wife and Thompson. The waiter comes over and Thompson orders four beers. McGovern says: “Hunter, there are only three of us. Why did you order four beers?” Thompson says: “I could care less what you bastards order. These four beers are for me.”

        Comment by Ace Backwords — May 20, 2014 @ 1:12 am

      • It was only recently that I started catching glimpses of the man & not the image/myth. Watching the documentary “Born Into This” opened my eyes when his published (black sparrow) read some of his unpublished letters, including one where he begged for his job back at the post office. There were also photos of him all through his adult life, smiling with his parents. I don’t doubt he held resentments towards them, but many biographers believe they nursed him back to health after many near fatal benders. He also gives himself away in many of the poems he published before his death (along with “Notes in a Wine Stained Notebook) showing him to be a thoughtful man who spent many more hours writing than drinking.

        Comment by Jon — May 20, 2014 @ 1:24 am

      • I admit I’m the total Bukowski fanboy who just loved and respected the guy (so I’m hardly objective). But to me, Bukowski the person, Bukowski the artist, and Bukowski the image were one and the same. . . A couple of years ago I got an email from Bukowski’s publisher John Martin who said: “Bukowski always liked you, Ace.” You have no idea how much those five words meant to me . . . . Course, Bukowski would have never said it to my face. The bastard. Ha ha.

        Comment by Ace Backwords — May 20, 2014 @ 3:38 am

      • I have been a fan since my teens. To have Bukowski say that about you is the ultimate honor.

        Comment by Jon — May 20, 2014 @ 12:25 pm


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