First thing to say, you’re not alone! Today, and every day since November 2016, many of us have been tempted to head to the nearest bar. Look at it this way, there is no way a sane person doesn’t feel like they need something to numb their frayed nerves. Some people reach for chocolate. (Quick note: In the drug store today at the check-out counter with my $70 worth of anti-aging cream, the nurse behind me said to her friend that one must eat dark chocolate once a day for her heart–commonly known, yes, but nice to hear confirmation.) Sensible others go out running, meditate, look at sunsets, pray. Good for them! But for the rest of us, when we’re sitting at our desks around 3 PM, all we want is a nice glass of wine, maybe a gin and tonic, a margarita. As my mom would say, it’s cocktail time somewhere in the world and why not join in?
Well, for one, you may fall asleep, become cranky, drive/walk back to work and cause a crash. You might even lose your job and there goes your life’s savings. (Another quick note: At my last job, the boss accused the least likely staffer in the office–an elegant model of propriety and correctness–of drinking her lunch. She reared her back up and spit out a stick of cinnamon gum at him desk. Bosses can be incredibly stupid jerks, particularly this one.)
I’ve been dying for a drink since noon, nothing really big like my usual martini. A glass of wine, that’s all. Why? For starters I’ve been trying to write all day but my 16 year old, cognitively dysfunctional pit bull with the eyes of love, has been circling my desk or roaming the hall, whining and agitated, probably not knowing where she really is. When she wanted to go outside, we went outside but she really didn’t want to go outside so we went inside again. This happened four times. I managed to sit her down, rubbed her belly to calm her. When that didn’t help, I laid down and cuddled her. After an hour of that, I rolled off the floor and ran downstairs because I was really really losing it and didn’t want to scream at her.
And then there’s Cory Lewandowski, disrespecting Congress like a snot nose teenage bully, actually tweeting during the hearing that he’s potentially running for the senate. I wanted to punch him silly. And Trump clapping on his airplane at the disrespect Lewandowski showed Congress. The lonely bottle of Jameson called to me.
And finally I found this in my mail box–Jane Friedman on why my book doesn’t have a chance in hell of being published. For an extra ripping-your-skin-off-your-bone measure, she recommended reading an old roundtable article in Writers Digest where several well regarded editors and agents riffed on the nearly dead market for memoirs, especially for writers with less than–wait for it–forty thousand social media followers. Like a total nightmare of a train wreck, I couldn’t turn away, all the time craving a stiff drink and a long hysterical cry. (I truly love and appreciate every one of you twenty people who follow/like me. Fuck the other 39,980)
Well, I didn’t and haven’t because I grew up in a family of alcoholics. Then I married one. I know what it looks like to be drunk in the middle of the day and being unable/unwilling to stop until night when your face meets the floor. Praise the Lord my incredible husband has been sober for over thirty years. But my mom and many others in the family did not.
So, no, I haven’t opened the cabinet and poured a huge stiff one.
At this point, I’d like to introduce you to an eighteenth century recipe that’s supposed to curb drinking. This was a period when gin and whiskey were acceptable substitutes for water, but the straight lace, extremely wealthy Van Rensselaer family of New York, recorded this remedy in their family cookbook:
An Infallible Cure for Toothaches and Drunkenness*
1/2 cup Peruvian bark, finely powdered (sometimes found in health food stores as red bark or Jesuits’ powder)
2 cups best quality brandy (yes, brandy)
2 cups rosewater
Mix the ingredients together in an earthenware jug. Let sit for 24 hours, then pour into a bottle with a tight-fitting lid.
Take one mouthful every morning. Hold in mouth for 5 minutes, then spit out. The idea is that the bark makes the brandy so unpalatable that you’ll never want to drink another drop again.
A really important note: I don’t stand by this recipe for curing alcoholism at all! Please seek professional help, instead.
In good conscious, I have to confess that I have drank in the afternoon and not always during festive occasions. My aunt who lived in Europe and the Far East for most of her life has a glass of wine in the afternoon, often with a little plate of cheese and crackers. I love sitting with her and drinking a glass of wine. But I’m not talking about such sophisticated gentility. I’ve met friends for three martini lunches. I left work shortly after an 11 o’clock meeting with a co-worker who was going through a bad divorce and we each drank 2 1/2 pints and somehow made it back to our desks by two. Once, during a really bad day of deep mental imbalance, I disappeared completely from the office and retreated to an old tavern to seek equilibrium in a glass of whiskey. The only redeeming thing about that lapse was that the bar was historical and the men around me first-class curmudgeons. I published a good story out of that time.
After I abandoned my beautiful dog, I fled the house and drove around Brooklyn for awhile (I know–driving around Brooklyn as a way to relieve stress is nuts. But I am nuts and it works for me). By the time I came back, she had nestled herself in her bed, twitching in her sleep probably chasing a squirrel she can no longer chase anymore.
So I sat down at my desk and wrote this.
It’s now 6:05. I’m going downstairs and pouring myself a glass of wine.
A Cure for Hangovers*
(This one is a folk remedy told to me by an old Norwegian neighbor)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup good fresh buttermilk
Mix the cornstarch with the buttermilk and heat gently in a medium saucepan. Cook until just heated through. Be careful not to boil.
Add a little salt and pepper to taste and sip the liquid white it’s hot. Alternately, you can let it cool slightly, stir in a lot of honey and pour it into a tall glass to sip slowly through the day.
*Both recipes come from my book, A Soothing Broth, a collection of old recipes–from the 15th to the early 20th century–used to feed the sick.
PostScript: It is now 8:52. Dog woke up, needed a walk, to be fed, given her Xanax and Tramadol to sleep through the night. Husband came home and we sat together to eat and share commiserations about our days. I’m now deep into my second glass of wine.