Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Finally finished Dry: A Memoir, by Augusten Burroughs. His other book, which propelled him into the limelight, Running with Scissors, has been adapted into a film. Starring heavyweights such as Annette Bening, Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, and Alec Baldwin, it tells the tale of a young boy's horror of a childhood after being given away by his mentally-ill mother to her psychiatrist, and his adventures (and horrors) growing up in the latter's dysfunctional household. The movie hits the theaters July 2006.

Dry is a memoir about an alcoholic's struggle with his addiction. More than that, it is also about an individual dealing with dysfunctional friends--some, enabling, others, simply parasitic--and flawed, transitory love.

It has been an interesting journey reading this book. Some parts are filled with unbelievable in-your-face horror,

Jim's telling me that the absolute worst thing you can encounter as an undertaker is "a jumper."

"Two Ketel One martinis, straight up with olives," I tell the bartender and then turn to Jim. "What's so bad about jumpers? What?" I love this man.

"Because when you move their limbs, the bones are all broken and they slide around loose inside the skin and they make this sort of . . ." Our drinks arrive. He takes a sip and continues, ". . . this sort of rumbling sound."

"That's so fucking horrifying," I say, delighted. "What else?"

He takes another sip, creases his forehead in thought. "Okay, I know--you'll love this. If it's a guy, we tie a string around the head of his dick so that it won't leak piss."

"Jesus," I say. We both take a sip from our drinks. I notice that my sip is more of a gulp and I will need a drink soon. The martinis here are shamefully meagre. "Okay, give me more horrible," I tell him.

He tells me how once he had a female body with a decapitated head and the family insisted on an open casket service. "Can you imagine?" So he broke a broomstick in half and jammed it down through the neck and into the meat of the torso. Then he stuck the head onto the other end of the stick and kind of pushed.

"Wow," I say. He's done things that only people on death row have done.

He smiles with what I think might be pride. "I put her in a white cashmere turtleneck and she actually ended up looking pretty good." He winks at me and plucks the olive from my glass.

while others describe, with tear-jerking tenderness, the confusion, helplessness and denial that grip us as close ones fall ill and die. A letter to a HIV-positive friend, who complained of Augusten's coolness, reads:

Dear Pighead,

The reason why I am so distant is because, well, there are two reasons actually. The first reason is my drinking. I require alcohol, nightly. And nothing can get in the way.

The second reason is your disease. I can't stand the idea of getting close to you, or closer, only to have you up and die on me, pulling the carpet out from under my life. You're my best friend. The best friend I ever had. I have to protect that.

I don't call you or see you much because I'm killing you off now, while it's easier. Because I can still talk to you. It makes sense to me to separate now, while you're still healthy, as opposed to having it just happen to me one night out of the blue.

I'm trying to evenly distribute the pain of loss. As opposed to taking it in one lump sum.

After Pighead develops full-blown AIDS and passes away,

I peer into the coffin.

So still. No heaving chest. No shaking. No sweating. No face winced in pain. No hiccups. No diarrhea. And a tuxedo.

"Hey, Pighead? Are you there? Pighead?"

I guess not.

I looked at his face a while longer. I want to touch it but am afraid. I think, Now I can remove your number from speed dial on my phone. I can forget your birthday. I don't have to put rubber gloves on and inject you with medication. I don't have to worry about getting stuck with a needle. Or fill your humidifier. Or change the lightbulb in the kitchen. Or answer the front door. I don't have to worry how long you'll live. I don't have to tell you I can't see you today. I don't have to ever put more ice in your glass or pick up hot dog buns on the way to your apartment.

In my head, I go over all these new benefits.

Most of all, the book deals with the subject of alcoholism: the ease in which one can descend into being a wino, and the irrepressible urge to drink. I am no alcoholic, but I understand the appeal of alcohol (Jim Morrison called it "bottled sunshine"). And I can drink. In fact, I can drink most people under the table. I don't like to drink in parties or clubs. The last thing you want when you are working up to a good buzz is to have stupid drunk people around interrupting you. (Yes, I am aware of the irony of the statement).

I like to drink alone. Locked in my room, or in the study, in the course of a night, I will polish off 2 large bottles of Corona (or 500 ml cans of Sapporo), 2 bottles of Merlot, and an entire bottle of Glenfiddich single malt scotch. When people boast that they got smashed in a club or threw up after a party, it feels as if they are telling me, "Hey, I managed to cycle to the end of the driveway without falling on my face! Phear!"

Dude, you got nothing on me. P.S. Real drinkers don't throw up. I will drink you under the table any time. I will drink you into the hospital. And therein lies my problem. My liver will probably have gone if I kept it up. That's why I stopped.

You have not felt anxiety until you have carried a plastic trash bag stuffed with a few hundred beer bottles down the stairs in the middle of the night, trying not to make a sound.

Yep. Done that.

The author's humor is also wonderfully acerbic: being chastised for not calling the police when a hijacked bus rolled by, Augusten's boss, Greer, explodes:

"I can't take care of everybody! What do you expect me to do? Go swim out there off the coast of Florida and escort all those Cubans to the shore? Or maybe help the Mexicans dig tunnels under the border?"

"I am just a regular person living a regular life. I can't be Florence fucking Nightingale."

Perhaps the most memorable line the book left me with is:

"I think I love him, but I also think that you can love people who aren't good for you."

In the spring of 2005, Mr. Burroughs wrote:

I will.



Anonymous bvvg said...

So you say...

1:05 AM  
Blogger -ben said...

So I did.

1:14 AM  
Anonymous bvvg said...

So you many people on the internet claim...

12:01 PM  
Blogger -ben said...

The gist of the post was about the book by Augusten Burroughs and my ruminations upon it. And yet, in your insecurity, you choose to focus on yourself. I believe this speaks more about your pathological level of insecurity than my post.

So, yes, I claim:

1.) To have had Augusten Burroughs sign my copy of his book--have the book to prove it.

2.) To have drank a lot in the past--have the receipts to prove it.

3.) To be a cyclist of significant endurance--have the pictures, GPS track logs, and even witnesses to prove it (e.g. one of them works on the telescopes on top of Mount Hamilton).

I have my face to my name, my GPS tracks and pictures to my posts, while you, are an anonymous troll.

In the words of Queen Gertrude, "More matter, less art." Your two posts prove that you are in possession of neither.

Further postings of such nature will be deleted.

6:04 PM  

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