The only good thing about getting waylaid by a heavy case of the flu, aside from catching up with Colonels Hogan and Klink, is the resulting drought rekindles one’s appreciation for nectar alcohol.
After four hideously sober days of fever deliriums and cold sweats, I arose from my bed, pulled on a pair of trousers and said to myself: ”I’m going to go have a drink.”
Not a shocking statement, to be sure, I say it to myself quite often. But after my sickbed prohibition, the words fairly sparkled with promise. If memory serves, this was the first time in ten years I’d gone so long without a drink, and while I have no desire to repeat the experience, it was not without its gifts.
It made me realize how much I was taking for granted. When I walked into my local it was akin to passing through the gilded gates of Shangri-La. Though the joint is an outright dive, it somehow appeared stately and new. The hobos seemed well scrubbed, their crude mumbles sounded as the wittiest of ripostes, the swarthy and unshaven bartender appeared a gentleman of the highest order. The bottles behind the bar fairly gleamed with a nearly forgotten promise, the rattle of ice being scooped into a glass sounded like diamonds tinkling into Waterford crystal. Waiting for my first Beam on the rocks, I felt the giddiness of a doughboy from Hogsbreath, Alabama embarking on his first three-day pass to Paris.
And the taste. Mr. Beam’s Whiskey, which I commonly refer to as monkey piss, tasted like sunshine distilled through a mermaid’s golden locks. I gazed around the dive (which, I am ashamed to say, I have sometimes casually and callously referred to as “the Den of Crapulence”) and thought, What a very fine place, what excellent company. Have I never noticed how low and comfortable the lighting is, how the jukebox glows in the corner like an inviting hearth? Look how easy laughter comes in such a place, how content the world seems from the barstool. Surely this is paradise.
My cell phone rang. It was my wife wanting to know where I was.
“I’m sitting in a palace of wisdom and delights, supping on liquid rapture,” I informed her.
“I’m lounging in Nirvana, basking in golden sunshine that some kind of goddamn mermaid has spun into sweet, sweet joy.”
“Drunk with joy! Drunk with the company of a forgotten friend, a prince really, who—”
“You have a fever. Where—”
“I’m at the Den of Crapulence swilling monkey piss.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so?”
Because I’d rediscovered how good monkey piss swilled in a den of crapulence was, that’s why.