It’s windows down, radio up weather in Michigan, a beautiful day. You can see the air bend over the hoods of the cars from the heat, and outside Last Call in Eastpointe, the parked motorcycles pop like open cans of Coca-Cola, the engines still hot. An old biker dude with long, wiry white hair and bell bottom flood pants looks out onto 10 Mile and smokes, a couple drinks in. Dead worms litter the sidewalk, brown and shriveled up, a mirror image of his lungs.
The door to the Last Call is propped open to let the cool breeze in. It’s 3, maybe 4 PM. Inside, under the dim lights, the great mythical American bar stool awaits, where my father and his father and probably all my American forefathers drank. On the sign in the parking lot, a hunk of steak floats dreamily by a mug of beer – yes, there’s an actual drop shadow under the steak. I know I can walk inside, take a seat, have a drink or ten, and escape.
Look, we’re not idiots. We know why we drink. We know the other choice is the daily grind, the endless repetition that defines modern life. The roads, the cars, the gasoline, the clothes, the homes, the beer – that’s the sum of our daily sacrifice to the gods of industry and service. Throw in your wife or girlfriend and kids if you got ’em, and that’s all there is to this modern world. A stiff drink and a medium-well steak.
And what’s love? Love is convenience, exceptions to a point. Divorce is easy, God’s dead. We build skyscrapers, not church spires. What are you gonna live for?
Yes, we know why we’re here, in this dingy bar again at an all too early hour. Charles Baudelaire once wrote: “It is necessary to be drunk all the time. That is everything; it’s the only question. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time breaking your back and bending you towards the ground, you must get drunk without respite.
“But on what? On wine, poetry or virtue, it’s up to you. But get drunk.”
Sure, I could try to find meaning in a Faygo bottle, or go to a restaurant and use it as an expedient avenue for exploring contemporary American culture. I could get “drunk” that way.
But tonight, I think I’ll settle for another beer.
Oh, and suffice it to say, Baudelaire died from a stroke, brought on by too much drink and opium. Go figure, right?