At any moment on the Internet, there are people gleefully and analytically dissecting and discussing the viscosity and texture of their latest bowel movements. Though some are undoubtedly feces fetishists, most are simply fasters.
As in: Fasting.
As in: Adopting a diet of bare subsistence in hopes of promoting internal cleansing, spiritual growth and personal awakening, all the while measuring their progress by the relative “gluey” and “sponginess” of what the rest of us are happy to glance at and flush.
As in: Shut the hell up, already.
A popular fast alternatively called “The Lemonade Diet” or “The Master Cleanser” has participants subsisting on nothing but a cocktail of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper, with a morning enema of tepid salt water to break up the routine.
Chanteuse Beyonce reportedly used this fast to offset the camera’s plus 10 for her role in Dreamgirls, as did Jared Leto, to reduce the gut he gained while playing fat-ass Beatle-killer, Mark David Chapman.
Neither an actor nor a musician, just a common drunk, and not giving a damn about my weight or, for that matter, my health, but still seeking a healing experience and bowel movements worth posting on the Internet, I opted for a 30-day beer fast. Beer is wise after all. Wiser than a stomach-full of salt water and lemon juice, anyhow.
To even out the morning shakes, I decided to add a morning shot of vodka to the regimen. To be honest, this was already part of my pre-fast routine, but that’s beside the point.
I figured I would need anywhere from 10-30 beers per day, depending on the level of spirituality and personal awakening I wished to attain. That, along with the uranium-laced tap water of Nevada, and I figured I was gold.
I bought a shopping cart’s worth of 12 and 24-packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Budweiser, MGD and (for a treat) Steel Reserve, then pushed said cart back to my apartment building. My landlady must have heard me coming, because she ran outside to block the sidewalk.
“You’re not having another party,” she said, more threat than question.
“No way,“ I said. “This is all for me. All $156.93 of it. I’m going to be healthy.”
She rattled that around in her head for a minute, then nodded and let me pass. Her keen landlady instincts could find nothing wrong with it. Loud social drinking: bad. Quiet beer fasting: no problemo.
I woke up around noon, downed a shot of vodka and cracked a beer. I forgot to mention, I don’t have a steady job. I work for a week or two each month to pay the bills then dedicate myself to the ancient art of drunkardy.
I didn’t feel very spiritually awakened after the first beer, so I cracked another and drank it in the shower. I stuffed a few cans into my winter coat and went for a walk. I was already hungry. I hid behind a concrete abutment and opened a third beer. I had to crap. I walked a block to The Crossroads, waved to the bartender, and headed for the toilet. Pad of paper in hand, I recorded my observations. It was nothing that spectacular, but it was only my first day, for crissakes.
I took a stool next to the jukebox. There was NASCAR on the TV, which meant free chili dogs for the paying customers.
“Can’t do it,” I told Dan the bartender, even though he hadn’t offered me a chili dog. “I’m fasting. On beer.”
I suppose I thought he would solemnly give me some concrete wisdom like, “Be careful about getting carpal tunnel in your hoisting hand—make sure you switch up now and again.”
Instead, I got a sneer. That’s the sort of prejudice a beer faster has to put up with. Tell them you’re sucking cayenne-spiked lemon juice down one end and salt water up the other and they’ll think you’re chic. Tell them you’re swilling nothing but beer for 30 days and they treat you like a goddamn bum.
I fasted mightily on tap beer until midnight. Excited that I had completed, technically speaking, my first day, I scrawled Feeling drunk in my notebook and blacked out.
I woke up to a stomach growling like an angry Polish bum screaming at the cold.
I shut it up with my morning vodka and wondered what amusing adventures I might have gotten up to during my blackout. I hoped it was something fun, but not so fun there would be a warrant involved. I checked my journal for clues. There was only one entry: Watery. Brown. Smells.
I got out of bed and noticed a man and a woman sleeping on my floor next to the heater. I didn’t recognize them.
Day Two, I wrote in my journal. Newfound empathy for strangers. I wasn’t sure if that fell under increased spirituality or personal awakening, but I was certain it fit in there somewhere.
I felt like puking, but held it in. I drank a beer. I gave the dude on my floor a swift kick in the back of the neck. Meth addicts. The lowest form of life. They bailed. I felt empowered, just like the juice fasters had reported I would.
“We are all capable of infinitely more than we believe. We are stronger and more resourceful than we know, and we can endure much more than we think we can.” That quote is attributed to professional loiterer/magician David Blaine.
“Blahhhh! Gaaaaaak! Blahhhhh!” That quote is attributed to David Crosby as he puked up a liter of whiskey and half his liver.
Thinking made me dizzy. I was hungry. The acid in my stomach swished around like the stale swill at the bottom of a 40. I felt like I’d snacked on the contents of an overfull ashtray and chased it with a chemical weapon.
This is when my cast-iron willpower comes into play, I thought. I wouldn’t give in. Not a chance in hell.
After several exhilarating minutes of mental affirmations, I puked, felt better and cracked a beer.
Using all my willpower, I finished off the PBR by midnight then went to bed with a Bud and the realization that I had to be at work at 6am.
I woke just before 3 pm. I had forgotten to set my alarm for work. I called my boss at the temp agency and told him I had injured my back throwing boxes of coffee onto the slapper at the Starbucks factory. He told me not to bother coming back. That was that. One less thing to worry about.
While my injury was pure fiction, the part about throwing boxes of coffee onto a slapper at the Starbucks factory is solid fact. It was how I spent Day Three. The menial drudgery didn’t bother me so much as my neglecting to bring beer for lunch. I made up for it when I got home, gorging myself on a plump 12-pack of MGD, with a savory 40 of Steel Reserve for dessert. Beer. It’s what’s for dinner.
So, freshly unemployed, I opened a beer, put a couple of its brethren in my coat pockets, and went for my daily walk around Carson City.
“Fasting is an institution as old as Adam. It has been resorted to for self-purification or for some ends, noble as well as ignoble.” Gandhi said that. I’d written it down in my notebook for inspiration.
Damn right, I thought. It was a great day. I didn’t feel hungry at all.
Much later, I scrawled Rat valium! in my notebook and went to sleep.
I woke up in a cold mess of my own shit. There’s no polite way to put it. What was it? Six billion years of evolution and I still shit myself?
I wrote Cold and runny in my journal, chucked my sheets and shorts, and took a long shower.
Don’t ask me about Day Five. I know, of all people, I should know best what happened, but I don’t.
What I do know is the sixth day of the fast brought the beer flies. These grubby little insects that fly around in circles just below your vision. RAID didn’t help, the busy little buggers were immune to the biological stuff.
I opened a box of Cuban Romeo y Julietas a friend had sent from Prague. Black smoke filled the room. Like something from the Industrial Revolution. I wandered around my apartment thinking odd thoughts, like Are my toe bones getting too soft? That guy looks a little too much like Karl Rove. Was that me? Was that a mirror? Who’s screwing in that van?
When I woke up the flies were back. The night before I’d managed to drive them away with a coordinated Budweiser/cigar smoke attack, but now they were back.
I met my ex-wife for lunch and asked her about the flies.
“There are no flies buzzing around you,“ she insisted.
What a fucking liar, I thought.
“It’s a good thing you’re not on a spinach fast,” she said. “That shit is killing people left and right. E coli.”
“My heart started palpitating,” I told her. I took a Klonopin.
“You’re taking that stuff and doing nothing but drinking?”
“It’s prescribed by a doctor.”
“Are you taking all of your medicine?”
“This shit is going to kill you,” she said.
I jogged to The Crossroads for the midnight to 2 a.m. happy hour for the swing shifters.
I choked on my third beer. Asphyxiating. Had I lost the ability to function on the material plane?
“I fucking hate Sodoku and wish it would die,” I said to nobody.
“Lay snares for the beer faster, step into one and you are hoisted in the air hanging from a tree branch…this is fieldwork and I’m just groping my way,” I said.
“Why don’t you go over to Tommy’s?” said some asshole. Then I heard him say it again to Dan. “Why don’t you tell him to go over to Tommy’s?”
I wasn’t going to Tommy’s without a contingent of UN peacekeeping troops. Last time I went to Tommy’s I got in a fight with an elf with a red beard. Some fat fuck who was married to the cute Irish bartender. Also, somebody stole my digital camera and my keys. I had to break down my door and reattach it with very long screws just so it would close. Then I started tossing my stuff outside. I threw my vacuum cleaner so hard it cleared the neighbor’s fence.
So, no more Tommy’s for me.
There were patches of purple blisters on my hands when I woke up. I felt the seasickness of reggae coming from the radio. The blisters were, I thought, surely a sign of detoxification.
I felt a numbing recombination of atoms in my upper leg. More detoxification. I was detoxificating like a madman.
Later in the day my cell phone rang. Maybe it’s Make-A-Wish, I thought. Maybe they’re ready to talk sponsorship.
It was a friend from college. He was going to be in San Francisco in two weeks, for the last leg of my beer fast. I agreed to meet him as I agree to meet anybody anywhere when I’m drunk.
I busied myself with travel plans. I couldn’t fly to SF because of the terrorist-inspired three-ounce rule. Can’t fly without being sauced. Which left the bus as the only way over the Sierras and into San Francisco.
My liver was flopping around numb and dumb like a freshly caught carp. Lose pounds and inches in just days. Sounds too good to be true. Catapulted me into a starving fat fuck.
I sat in a bar in Reno, steeling myself for the long bus ride. Big foamy 32-ounce Styrofoam cups of Beck’s. Swatting at flies. I feared I would go blind.
I was beer-slobbering and belly-flopping towards annihilation. None of my pants fit. My gut hung low over my belt. I suspected I had acne on the soles of my feet. Fasting is a centuries-old symbolic demonstration of devotion and worship.
You’re probably wondering what happened to Day 9 through Day 23. Me too. Well, that’s not entirely true. I remember buying more beer. I remember the look on the clerk’s face when he sold it to me (sad). I remember paying rent on time and the look on my landlady’s face (happy, surprised). I remember taking a lot of baths, with my beer balanced on my distended stomach rising from the water like a pleasantly rounded island. I didn’t make a single journal entry. See, a person who is spiritually and personally awakened, not to mention thoroughly detoxified, doesn’t need to take notes. His thoughts are recorded on the fabric of the universe. Ask Gandhi. Ask the flies. They know.
That said, I started taking notes again on Day 24. The promise of travel awakened my pen. Fuck that fabric of the universe bullshit.
“In my shivering stomach acid is manure you can’t smell,” I wrote in the Reno bar.
The diary entry goes off into nonsense from there.
I bought a pocket-sized bottle of McCormick’s vodka for the ride, and rode to Truckee locked in the bathroom, drinking.
A skinny, pale muppet got on in Roseville, CA and sat beside me. “One child in 19 dies after swallowing magnets used in toys,” I informed her. I could tell she took a mental note of that useful tidbit.
We got into the city at night. I walked up Mission until I found a bar. I waited for my friend Colin, but he was stuck in traffic on the 101. I continued my fast without him. I noticed some of the customers at the bar kinda looked like me. Like the spiritually detoxified new me, I mean. Floppy beer bellies. Muttering gibberish. Slouching toward annihilation. Were they beer fasters too?
I thought about talking with them about it, and perhaps I did. You never know.
I met Colin at the hotel. He was at the counter checking in. I owed him money. I laid it down on the counter. One-hundred. Two hundred. Three. Four. Five.
“You’re right,” I said. “You can get a dog pregnant.”
The desk captain didn’t even blink.
I just took a shower and while drying off I noticed my skin felt weird, a different texture. I looked in the mirror and the pores in my face seem a little bigger. Of course I might just be drunk. The temptation to eat is getting to me now. What could I keep down? Maybe soup. I’d decided to make beer soup. Cold beer soup, coming right up.
I think I better get a flu shot this year. Or soak in a vat of hot water and tetracycline. I’m alternatively freezing then sweating as we walk outside. We walk and walk and walk. I drink and drink and drink.
This was not an exercise to see how hammered I could get, this was a spiritual journey, I explained to a cute girl at a North Beach bar.
I sat on my bed, meditating with a hangover while Colin slept. I felt lucid. One day from the finish and my brain had finally adapted.
I remember thinking that this was not the hardest thing I had ever done. Not even close. Drinking for 30 days? My pleasure. The not eating aspect was what sucked. My stomach would never trust me again. It made its hate known. But that’s the price of spiritual clarity.
Beer-fasting is not an inconsequential mini-series, I wrote in my journal, but a long drawn-out sea voyage that begins and ends with a full-on self-mutiny. It is, most likely, not even a very healthy thing to do.
Back in Carson City, I stepped on a scale at Rite-Aid after guzzling a liter of water. I’d gained 40 pounds. I buy some vitamins. It is Friday night. My fast is over.
I go to Crossroads and order a beer.