Raising the Bar

A week of the drink

When he returned from rehab, he seemed even more lost. He probably knew his days were numbered. His legs and face were skinny, but his belly was huge, and as tight as a balloon.

Then it got ugly. His complexion yellowed, so did the whites of his eyes, as fluids normally excreted by the liver seeped into his bloodstream. His belly continued to inflate as fluid once processed was now too much for his liver to handle. Mom had a tape measure, which she'd wrap around his belly every day to see if his stomach was receding, a sign that his liver was recovering. Good news, a quarter-inch down today. Bad news, a half-inch up the next day. His liver was dying. His skin got yellower, and his eyes grew sadder, more lost, more I'm-so-sorry. He died a few weeks later, in a morphine delirium.

Roxy's, 210 Madison Avenue, Brooklyn, Illinois

Jennifer Silverberg
Ask Las Palmas server Humberto Casillo about 
tequila, and his eyes get all happy and he breaks out in 
a smile. "How do you like it, my friend? Strong? 
Jennifer Silverberg
Ask Las Palmas server Humberto Casillo about tequila, and his eyes get all happy and he breaks out in a smile. "How do you like it, my friend? Strong? Smooth?"

Why are titty bars so dark? To hide the boners, the wrinkled faces, the strippers' stretch marks? Why are you here? Did you not stoop low enough yesterday? Do you not want to vomit at the mere thought of alcohol?

It is 2 p.m. on a Sunday, and you should be swimming laps at the pool. You should be frolicking in Tower Grove Park, reading, or napping, or doing anything else but planting your much-fatter-than-a-week-ago ass in a chair and drinking a rum and Coke at Roxy's watching Sunday afternoon strippers titillate the six men in this Brooklyn club.

Luckily, your ladyfriend has made the supreme sacrifice and joined you in this little afternoon safari. She's your protection. You can stare at booty to your heart's content without feeling the least bit Neanderthal. Suck another shot of rum and Coke; it's a good drink for a headache. And the rum, so sweet, even if it is the cheap stuff, clouds your increasingly acute sense of impending doom. Drink more, loser.

Drink because...because why? Because tomorrow is another day. And tomorrow -- maybe tomorrow you won't drink?

Hope springs eternal, mi amigo. Hope springs into your mouth, that's for sure. Hope springs straight past your gullet, where gravity and a few esopho-muscles drive it down into your tummy, where, depending on your mood and your built-up tolerance to tequila, to rum, to vodka, to beer, it lands either in a swan dive or an explosive belly flop.

Later you lie down for another nap. It is 4 p.m. In your head, skyscrapers are collapsing in slow motion. The weeping man face down on the sidewalk at Mardi Gras could be you. You're not that far removed from him, after all. In a split second, life can turn ugly, can turn pathetic even if you're home at last and your darling is right there next to you. Your body's not used to this anymore, drinking this much. That much, you know. Sleep it off.

The next morning dawns beautiful, and the song in your head is by a band called the Silver Jews: "In 27 years, I've drunk 50,000 beers, and they just wash against me like the sea into a pier."

The birdies are starting to get pumped. Winter's turning to spring. Chipmunks are poking their heads from their underground burrows, sniffing the air, hoping that the warmth is finally returning, and with it, a sense that a week of drink was not in vain.

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