We arrived at the house of the man I’d yet to meet at a quarter to two, many hours before happy hour, in Columbus, Ohio. It was the strangest addiction I had yet to meet, an alcohol addict. Working on my strange addiction team for as long as I had, I assumed I’d seen it all, but an addict to alcohol? Unfathomable, I believed.
But, upon arriving at his house, he opened the door with a handle in the door opening hand. He greeted me with the most callous of remarks: “Who told you and this asshole camera crew to come to my abode?” He didn’t even remember that it had been him to report his strange addiction to us. Alcohol was his strange addiction.
First, I sat down with his child, who was only five years of age. “Dad isn’t around too much. I watch the 1 o’clock football game with him and it’s great, but by the 4 o’clock football game, he is belching and giggling when a Progressive ad with Flo comes on. He says ‘boy she’s hot, ain’t she’ by that point and I get uncomfortable. He never taught me how to shave or drive stick.” Talking to the child, it was clear that he was misled. He couldn’t fathom masculine responsibility, and would eventually end up like his father. He even drank soda cans with the bottom facing upwards.
Back with the father, in the basement of the dingy apartment, I watched with awe as the father took his solo shots. “I was told that nobody could keep up with me in terms of these shots, so I figured I’d just drink by myself. It seemed a solution: nobody would see me drink and I wouldn’t feel the shame of anyone seeing me while I drank.”
His solution seemed simple enough. When an alcoholic is an alcoholic in the woods and nobody is around, is that alcoholic really an alcoholic? I walked through his house, observing the old Mickey Mantle posters, tempted to clean the dirty dishes that had gained dominance over his sink. I saw the kid’s room, which’s posters had become obscure in the time since they were put up. It had been years since a Toy Story poster was relevant in a five year old’s mind. The poster itself was almost grainy, like implying some old film ideal from many years prior. His wife was in the kitchen.
“I don’t quite know what to say. Whiskey dick is all I’ve ever known. Seems good enough to me.” She looked longingly past me, staring at a life that never was. It was clear the addiction took a lot from her. “I don’t drink, obviously. I don’t know much about what compels people to drink at all. Seems avoidant.” Her eyebrows darkened as she realized the gravity of the situation. She pulled at the hole in her jeans’ knee.
Back in the television room, the alcoholic was watching the football game. “Catch that pass, fucker!” He exclaimed. Instead of playing catch with his son, teaching him how to shave. Instead of making sweet love with his wife, he was here, making love to a bottle of whiskey. “Amari Cooper has got to pull his weight if he wants to stay on the team,” he told me, through a thick breath of whiskey. I agreed, but I didn’t really care. Football isn’t the real world. Neither is the world of the drunk. His delusion began to bore me, as did his cowardice. So what the Cowboys are losing, embrace your son; make love to your wife. As he spilled the drink on the carpet, I made my way to the door. I’ve seen many strange addictions, but this one was by far the strangest. I couldn’t bear to watch the sad play every night. The son, alone in his room, checking the football score only to impress his drunk dad. He knew, even then, his dad would forget the final score by the break of dawn. The mom watched a sexy movie and only dreamed. The alcoholic, my subject, felt himself in paradise: the dreamy haze of whiskey. But it was him who was missing life. Separated from the world: lost in his strange addiction.
Categories: grant woods, nov. 9, vol 25, wilt