Staggering, I mean really staggering, is rapidly becoming a lost art.

In fact, in this modern PC world, the only one who appreciates a good old staggering drunk is the drunk himself, who, if he’s really staggering drunk, neither notices nor cares.

Even respectable drunks feel compelled to exhibit a certain false decorum, even when snot-slinging, staggering drunk. Just when they start getting a good stagger going, they catch themselves and try to play it off as a momentary lapse of coordination, like they just climbed off a roller coaster ride.

Which is disgraceful behavior, if you ask me. I say if you’re gonna get drunk, why not get your money’s worth? You paid for the ticket, so take the goddamn ride. And how better to demonstrate the vaunted effects of your beloved brand of booze than to let it send you reeling completely and utterly out of control down the streets of Downtown, USA, as passersby gape in alarm and perhaps even a touch of envy.

See, that’s part of the reason staggering is becoming a dying art. In our modern, care-worn society, most people are too worried (even when hammered) to fly in the face of public opinion and get a good stagger going. And even if they do stagger, it’s just from the bar to their car, which deprives them of miles of good staggering, a fun game of hide and seek with your destination and the gleeful hoots of passing motorists. It takes a certain carefree damn-the-torpedoes attitude to get insanely drunk then decide, yes, I can, by God, traverse to the next place I wish to go, no matter how far away and how much each of my legs apparently wishes to go somewhere else entirely.

“What do you do with a drunken sailor?”
—Ancient Sea Shanty

Back in the day, men of every stripe took to the stagger with dedication and devotion; who today practices the art with the skill of sailors on liberty, reeling through port towns in search of prostitutes; mountain men swaying through the rendezvous whilst drawing attention to their art by firing any number of musket shots in the air; aborigines whooping it up on Guv’mint payday, or Irishmen on any day of the week?

Those were men living their short lives to the fullest, by God, and I think it a tragedy that most people these days are at least dimly aware of health care costs and deductible payments, and worry at a visceral level about falling and getting hurt, should a stagger go awry. It amounts to putting commonday concerns above Art, and where would the world be if artists like Picasso had worried about inhaling (and sometimes drinking) all that turpentine?

Fortunately for you, I’m here to help. I will teach you the proper Art of Staggering, and if you don’t think I’m qualified to teach this class, follow me home from the bar some night. Any night.

“The sidewalk’s made for walking. It ain’t made for fancy walkin’.” —Jasper on the Simpsons

First you have to get really hammered. I can’t emphasize how important this is. A good stagger is the product of a much-too-fucked-up-to-consider-the-consequences attitude that comes from the heart — by way of a well-disconnected medulla. Embrace the booze, it will loosen your joints just so and just enough to embolden them to throw off the oppressive yoke of the mind.

Warm up by weaving, bobbing, swaying. Once you’re in the groove, try a pitch and add some yawing. Then, get a bit drunker (while still moving, you gotta stay in the Zone) and move on to a full-tilt reel and finally the Grand Stagger. Let the booze guide you, you are a ship, alcohol is your sail and the whole damn world is your sea.

Release yourself from any feelings of public shame and/or personal danger, for those concepts serve as your ship’s rudder and your ship doesn’t need a rudder. The awesome and fragile beauty of a decent stagger is rooted in the fact that you are a hair away from crashing and burning into a banquet table or even a PTA supper buffet. It’s rooted in the suspense of not if you’re gonna crash, but when and how dramatically. Accept the inevitabilities, flow with it, become one with the reeling, pitching, and yawing, so much you don’t even realize you’re doing it. See, that’s the secret. A conscious stagger is like the conscious grace of an amateur ballerina, which is no grace at all. A truly great ballerina does not think about executing a perfect pirouette, she merely does it.

“Just walk along this line, sir.”
—Cops the World Over

Boldly reel forward to meet the heaving sea of alcohol-tilted sidewalks. Don’t be intimidated by society’s insistence on quiet and well-behaved drunks, those men are meek slaves, and don’t fret one hair about unconstitutional local ordinances concerning public displays of drunkenness. A truly great stagger, after all, is the epitome and banner of drunkenness, wave it proudly and to hell with the naysayers. And if you’re hassled by the haters of your brand of alcohol-enhanced performance art, just bump ominously into some stuff and reel majestically away before the unappreciative bastards can get ahold of you. Use your staggering to incite non-drinkers’ worst fears about ambulatory drunks. If the Man hassles you, start hiccuping and making retching, pre-barf noises, then fall and hit your head real hard. Lay perfectly still and the Boy in Blue should let you be. Cops don’t really want to stop you from staggering, they just want to get John Q. to stop complaining about it. Cops are naturally averse to unnecessary paperwork, and even more averse to getting vomit on their uniforms.

As the miles pass, it will become more and more natural, and you will own the world, or at least the eight-foot safety zone respectful passersby will afford you. They will notice you from miles away as you advertise your ancient and magnificent art. They will gaze upon you and say to themselves: “Here is a man (or woman, as staggering is a truly non-sexist art) who demands and deserves some extra room, some space to be free, to move where the flow takes him. Here is a man who might trample little junior and barf on the missus, or maybe even fall into the begonias. Give him space, give him freedom, get him the hell away from me!”

As an active practitioner of the Grand Stagger you will receive the respect a bull in a china shop receives, real get-outta-da-way respect, not the smarmy grunts and phony grins the sober walker barely earns.

So stagger on, drunkards. Refine this essential skill. It will help you understand your metaphoric journey through life, on your wobbly way to your ultimate destination, whether it be blissful oblivion or that grand after-hours party.

—Marc O’Maolain

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