Sitting down at a desk to write is a gentlemanly act. Even if you’re gifted with an X chromosome in place of the Y version I carry, sitting down to write is still an elegant experience. To plant your posterior in a chair, poise your fingertips over the keys, and open your mind to the possibilities – it’s adventurous and brave. It just is.
Of course there are staples of the writing trade. Pens and pencils come to mind, as do pads of paper, keyboards, Macintosh computers, Michael Dell, the fine people who created NeoOffice, Word, Wordperfect, Scrivener, and a slew of other useful software products. And alcohol.
Of all the alcohol laden options available to a writer, I will state unequivocally that whiskey is the most noble and productive of libations. This, after an exhaustive scientific study that ranged from my desk to the other side of my desk and back again. There, over near the calculator I picked up at Staples on a whim, is a glass of chilled golden liquid that will almost certainly result in this evening being more enjoyable than it might have otherwise been.
Whisky, or as it is referred to it in America, Canada, and Ireland, whiskey, is also a preferred drink of lawyers. Or it should be. Because the rules that distinguish whisky (Scotch) from whiskey (Irish) from Bourbon (American) from Rye (American or Canadian) are a legalistic jumble that no enhanced level of sobriety could possible decrypt. For instance, while American Rye Whiskey must be derived from a concoction of no less than 51 percent rye, Canadian Rye Whiskey may or may not have seen even a single grain of rye involved in the distillation process.
What? It’s enough to drive a good person to drink.
Be it corn, or barley, or rye, or wheat, the result is essentially the same. Sugars are converted into alcohol by the distillation process. That being the case, whether you understand the science behind it or not, the intake of alcohol generally leads to, in order, happiness, boisterousness, excessively loud speech, boorishness, and if you drink to sufficient excess, a desperate need to fall down. Generally face first on to a hard, most unforgiving surface.
All of which brings us full circle, back to the art and science of writing. Hemingway drank. Twain drank. Bukowski drank a lot. Even Vonnegut drank from time to time. What their preferences were is not known to me. But I would hazard a guess that each one of them imbibed of the golden, smokey miracle juice of the fields that George Washington himself once distilled in great quantity at Mt. Vernon.
Incidentally, by the time our first president was reduced to lying on his deathbed, his operation was capable of producing as much as 11,000 gallons of whiskey a year. That’s impressive production, especially for 18th century Virginia.
The key to all this drinking talk of course is to watch what you say, and to whom, and under what circumstances. In some places, the mention of a well protected stockpile of good quality whiskey or whisky will cause small packs of roving degenerates to arrive at your home, uninvited, at inhospitable hours. They came in peace, just to sample a bottle or two, they say. But no, they will not simply sample a bottle or two. They have no interest in single malts or oak casks or small batch bottles. No. They will dive deeply into your liquor cabinet, whet their appetites and head back in for more.
Before you know it the sun will be coming up, the neighbors will be talking, and you will have missed a deadline your agent warned you to absolutely, positively, not miss.
Perhaps this is why writers tend to be a solitary bunch. We generally write in private. We certainly drink in private. In the end we take our lumps and celebrate our victories in private too. Somehow, we like the lifestyle.
Don’t judge us. It’s just the way we are and there’s nothing to be done about it.
It’s worth noting at this point that I have in my possession a bottle of Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey that was a gift from a gentleman I met on a TWA flight from New York to Portland, Oregon…in 1987. Yet I still have the bottle. It remains full. The seal is intact. Perhaps one day I’ll open it. Or not. I haven’t decided.
All that may be as it may, but it doesn’t change the fact that the glass on the corner of my desk is getting lonely. The ice has melted. The color of the spirits have become pale as they’re ever more diluted with the demon water. The trend is not good.
A man can only stand so much, you know. So off I go. To where, I may not say. You can be sure, however, there will be a commercially available version of white lightning there to keep me company. I am a writer, after all. I have my ways.