Dispatches from the Suburbs of Hell

Heaven is for the obedient. Hell is for the wrathful. What of the ones in between? We wind up in the Suburbs. Our sin is individuality. Our punishment is boredom. But at least we're in good company.

Location: New England, United States

Monday, June 18, 2007


In Terry Pratchett's series of "Discworld" novels, there exists a concept known as "knurd." The word "knurd" is, of course, the word "drunk" spelled backwards, and that is what it is meant to be: knurd is the opposite of drunk. This, Pratchett exposits, is not the same as being sober; in fact, the state that we call "sober" is a happy medium being drunk and knurd. According to this idea, most of us walk around in a slightly rose-tinted fog. We see through a glass darkly, and those of us unlucky enough to find ourselves in a state of knurdness actually see the world AS IT ACTUALLY IS. Ironically, in the Discworld universe being knurd for any length of time is enough to turn a man into a committed alcoholic; it takes a few stiff drinks to become "sober" again.

Now, this is a brilliant idea, and very very British in its conception: coming from a dreary North Atlantic island renown for both its drinking and its irony, the concept of knurd clearly had its seed in the mind of a man who takes his drinking very seriously. This is a man who understands that absolute sobriety can be almost as bad as absolute drunkeness. After nearly two months of forced sobriety on my part, I can relate. Recovery from my recent liver infection requires me to give my liver a break. So, no alcohol, and fatty foods kept to a minimum. Now, I feel fine. My major symptoms have cleared up: abdominal discomfort is gone, my rash is gone, and my pee is no longer the color of Killian's Red. However, the absence of reliable health insurance keeps me from setting up a doctor's appointment to confirm that the infection has cleared up. So, erring on the side of caution, I have foregone alcohol altogether.

It's been a hard couple of months.

It's not that I'm an alcoholic. Or at least, I don't think I'm an alcoholic (there are a couple of bartenders in Galway City that might disagree with my self-assessment...). But I do enjoy a nice beverage once in a while. It's not even the buzz I miss, though that's nice. It's the feel of a wine glass in my hand, the aroma of a good Cabernet Sauvignon, and the way it leaves its trails on the sides of the glass. It's the rich color of a pint of porter ale, the light frothy head, the nutty smell and bittersweet aftertaste. It's the social aspect I miss, too: head down to the pub with the mates, shoot a few tables of pool...and yes, get a buzz on now and then. I've had a stressful couple of months, both professonally and personally, and there have been a couple of nights where I've needed something to mellow me out. Those have been difficult. Have to do something ::gasp:: constructive to work through them. And with that often comes feelings of helplessness. That frustrated anger one feels when faced with stressful situations that one cannot change. The personal serenity required to deal with those situations continues to elude me, and it's those times when I fear I've passed from sober to knurd. When I think that I am finally seeing the world as it truly is: a collection of states of being and events that are largely beyond my ability to affect. Terry Pratchett is right: it is enough to drive a man to drink.

But drinking is still a no-no for me. At least for the near future. My primary concern is securing steady employment. Then, proper medical insurance. Then there will be debauchery. Oh yes, the likes of which the world has yet to see....

Hell, who am I kidding? I've been sober for two months. I'll pass out after one glass of wine.

But at least I'll save some money...


Anonymous portraitinflesh said...

::pours you a pint of scumble::

Don't worry, it's made from apples. Mainly apples.

I know there's many a time I've been tempted by the white man's firewater, but I have a hard enough time respecting myself in the morning as it is without that added stimulus.

Just take care of yourself now, because that's what's important. You need to age like fine wine, not turn all skunky like some old Ripple or Thunderbird or whatever the kids today are drinking.

4:44 PM, June 20, 2007  

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