"Here's the Thing" by Johnny NoNo

The “Silent Butler” was an ornate 10”x12” highly polished silver box, resembling one of those antique bed warmers, but with a handle only ten or twelve inches in length, Rosewood, and delicate. I’m not even sure the correct name was “Silent Butler”, but that was what I polished to a brilliant shine, along with all the rest of the silver in the house, especially just prior to one of my Mothers’ Famous Cocktail Parties. Seriously. Famous. Society Pages. Mothers’ World was Blue Book, Social Register, Who’s Who… my Maternal Grandmother was a Zeigfield Girl, and Mother and my Aunt Margot were Debutantes… LA – DE – DA. My Fathers’ colleagues, Emmy, Tony, and Oscar winning Producers, Directors, Writers, Sound, Lighting and all the other Stage Technicians, Musicians,  Wardrobe, as well as all the Actors, Actresses, Dancers, you name it. My Father was in Television News, so it would not be unusual to find all the top folks from what my Father and I considered to be The Real World; although the News is often totally unbelievable. Truth is stranger than fiction, all right.

Once everything was prepared – perfectly – then it was time for my Sister and I to suit up – to put on our costumes. I usually had my Blue Blazer, Rep Tie, Loafers, Khaki Shorts – I wasn’t old enough for long pants yet. My Sister always looked like a miniature Jaqueline Kennedy. She didn’t have any specific duties besides meet and greet, curtsey, firm handshake, direct eye contact, remember everyone’s name, and generally be beautiful and charming and a direct reflection of my Parents Exquisite Parenting Skills. Trophy.

My job was different. I made a constant circuit through the events, maintaining all the same Social Graces – but – I would first tour with my trusty Silent Butler, emptying and wiping them out with a linen cloth. Then I would return with a silver tray and exchange everyone’s mostly finished cocktails with fresh ones, which I had mixed myself. I remembered everyone’s names, everyone’s drinks, and how to make them properly. I was really good at it. I was also nine. I wouldn’t be eligible for long pants until I was twelve. I was gifted with an incredible memory, and I was naturally articulate, and quite precocious. My Parents were sticklers – for Grammar, Diction, Enunciation, Pronunciation, Poise – all manners of Manners. I was a sensation. A Sideshow Freak.

I thrived on the attention because it allowed me to hide in plain sight. You see, all those mostly finished cocktails, I returned to the Kitchen table where I had a bar set up. I also had a pitcher, a strainer, a Tropicana Orange Juice Bottle, and a funnel. I strained all of those leftovers into the pitcher, and then poured it off into the bottle. I called it a Kamikaze, not knowing there was already a cocktail called a Kamikaze. I identified the very reason for all of the Adults’ reverie, the source, the premise for their gathering – in fact the motive – the inducement for these pageants of profligacy and excess… as the contents of those glasses. The effects of the consumption were obvious to me. From the very first time I gulped that elixir and felt the wave wash over me, I had arrived. Wherever I was going, I was there. The stuff in that glass made me feel funny, made my face numb, yet tickly-tingly, made my head a little whoopsied, but I did NOT want to get off this ride. I had one, or sometimes two of those bottles full of that special juice. Probably sixty percent or more melted ice, but I wasn’t even a teenager yet. I could only make a few laps with my tray before I was too unsteady to continue, andhad to relinquish my role to one of the members of my Parents’ inner circle.

At this point it would be time for me to make my final rounds, a very showy goodnight to all, and I would wobble off to my room with an empty promise from my Mother of being tucked in shortly. That almost never happened.

A few other things never happened. I never threw up, I was never hung over, I never got caught – hell, I was never even suspected. I did get the bedspins a couple of times, but I had somethingsimilar happen a couple of times before I ever had my first drink – so I never really thought of those events as related.

I had always been somewhat detached, I looked at life as though from the outside – but I even looked at myself from the outside. I didn’t feel a part of things, ever, and there were enormous gaps. Not just between events, but between moments. Time would advance imperceptibly. Slowly, so slowly it hurt. Then it would move all at once, and it could be months, or even years later before I even seemed to notice. Either way, I didn’t care. About anything.

Thankfully, I was just a kid. I had a highly underdeveloped alcoholic inside of me. I did not yet have cravings. I was not in trouble yet. I had not yet driven drunk, but only because I could not yet reach the pedals. That is, of course, a metaphor, but it is also not. I hadn’t burned anything yet, or anyone. I hadn’t broken anything yet, or anyone. I hadn’t stolen anything yet, or lied yet, or ruined anything or scared anyone or put anyone in jeopardy. Yet. I’d get around to all that soon enough.

It wasn’t long before I was drinking all the time. All The Time. I wasn’t always drunk, but I was never not drinking. The behavior may have been learned, but I had developed my own techniques, and in my humble opinion, I was well on my way to perfecting them. Not every bad decision I made was because of alcohol, but the very worst ones were while brimming with alcohol.

So, Alcoholism is genetic. Okay. If you say so. There is some evidence to support that.

You have a CHOICE. Maybe I did, once upon a time. Eventually, I didn’t have any choice at all.                                                                                            Complete Physical Dependence.

Peer Pressure. Learned Behavior. Developed Habit. It’s a Disease. That’s at least a fact. Is that important? I mean, it’s relevant, but is it important? I don’t think so. I’m an Alcoholic. One of the many symptoms is the chronic, progressive nature of Alcoholism. As my consumption increased dramatically, the sheer volume of alcohol ingested, the danger had to be obvious. Should have been. Wished it was. I was introducing such toxic amounts into my system, I should have been poisoned. Actually, if I ever had to stop for any reason, I would experience all of the detoxifying withdrawals that would indicate poisoning. It was frightening, or it should have been. But just as my consumption increased to dangerously toxicquantities, my decisions grew increasingly dangerous. I used Cocaine and Heroin for twelve years – smoked a trainload of Crack – found myself in the worstparts of every city in the middle of the night with a pocketful of money – acquired surreptitiously – either to score or to be robbed or to be beaten and robbed; yet somehow even with my precarious decline in health I could not be discouraged. Miraculously, my employers intervened, saving my life. I spent the next four months in an intensive treatment program, which began in a Hospital – and, while I haven’t used drugs since November of 1989, I did not address my Alcoholism, convinced I was different, convinced I could handle it. I didn’t get drunk for eight years, but when I finally did, I found myself in a barfight and in jail again, wondering what happened. Then I was back to drinking too much, too much of the time. A couple of wrecked vehicles, a few more fights, a few more lost jobs and an eventual bankruptcy and I still hadn’t realized the source of all my troubles. Scratchin’ my head.  Mix in a geographical change and I had the recipe for a host of opportunities I could ruin. Dozens of opportunities, dozens of last chances, countless broken dreams - all culminating in one horrendous, reprehensible event. In December 2007, I committed a Horribly Violent Crime, and when I finished serving my sentence, I discovered upon my release that my Loved Ones had FLED. My Home had been abandoned years before, and now it was all gone. Twenty Four Years in Vermont, and there wasn’t a scrap of paper to show for it.

I didn’t drink any more, and life had really begun to improve. The normal ups and downs of life that regular people experience had become customary – even expected. I should never have become so complacent. Perhaps Karma is cumulative after all. All of my past sins, all of the things I did and did not get caught for, every transgression, I sit here paying for them now.  No matter what happens now, I know I won’t make anything any better if I’m drunk.

 Besides, my Brain was starting to get a bit squishy. 

Gary MillerComment