Suggested pairing: Scotch and Water
2 ounces Scotch Whiskey
5 ounces water
Pour Scotch and water into highball glass over ice and stir. Reverse ratios of ingredients depending upon shitty circumstances.
When all else fails, when all hope is gone, when all things being equal are also extraordinarily shitty and disappointing, the one constant, therapeutic outlet that forever remains is music. When people suck, from the father of your child to the president-elect, we must rejoice and praise all that is holy for the few saving graces and alcoholic beverages we have left.
Music, a colorful, lyrical tapestry, weaves us together in some strangely magical way, comprised of threads from all walks of life, every shade of emotion and the sum of individual and universal experience. It has the ability to transport us to another place and time and to transform us into better, wiser versions of ourselves. Sometimes the melody of life is joyful and exuberant but, too often, the song is deep and dark and mournful. In the end, however, the beats and notes and words come together to form the soundtrack of our lives and the lives of those around us, despite those of us who are deaf to tone and blind to beauty.
Feel free to sing along.
For my birthday several years ago, my brother gifted me with a much-needed night on the town, fully equipped with equal parts food, drink and live music. The one surprise ingredient that altered the flavor of the night for the better, the worse and the life-changing, was an abundance of angels-crying, clothes-soaking, bone-chilling torrential rainfall.
I met him at his apartment that evening in Weehawkin; a typical single, male-centric, moderately cozy abode, occupied by near strangers-turned-roommates and accentuated with a thin layer of grime and a thinner veil of hospitality. One of the inhabitants appeared as pleased to meet me as he was to know that we were on our way out, and the other was behind closed doors, arguing with his then, sort-of girlfriend. Upon admiring the crown molding in the living area, promptly followed by admiring the food molding in the kitchen, we began our journey into what became a record track that would continue skipping as future days came and went.
The upside to living in “The Littlest of Hawkins”, as my brother fondly called it, was that a bus stop was never more than a few steps away, and a bus arrived as often as a potential new, but short-lived love interest. He reminded me that, although the rain had begun coming down in sheets, our ride to the city would be there quicker than I could light my cigarette in the wind.
This, in fact, was not the case.
As we stood at the corner shivering from the cold, my mascara dripping from my lashes and my smile running from my face, we eventually succumbed to the reality that we were going to be waiting longer than planned for transportation, so we employed the umbrella we had between us in a last-ditch effort to rescue my cigarette, and save whatever dryness and dignity we had left.
Our refuge was short-lived, however, as the umbrella rapidly turned against us, violently flipping itself inside-out and darting from my brother’s cold, wet hand. We watched it dance away from us, taunting and ridiculing our predicament, frolicking on its own in the rain, likely never to be seen again. It was a heartless jerk of an umbrella, but it was a broken one nonetheless, so we certainly could not fault it for running off like a thief in the night.
But, goddammit, we were fucking soaked.
Despite our misfortune, we ventured on into the big city in search of the Irish pub at which we had pre-show reservations. It only seemed fitting that since we’d lost our one tool to combat the elements, we would walk nearly a dozen blocks in the wrong direction, and have to backtrack, maddened and marinating in Mother Nature, but still laughing all the way.
My jeans had turned a shade of blue I hadn’t known possible from being steeped in nature’s tea, and my cheeks an ugly, bright shade of pink from the dampness and disgruntlement I felt. But we had bevvies and snackies and, thus, life was good.
We reached the show still soaked, but full of short ribs and whiskey and, as though the stars had aligned upon our arrival, as we took our places on the balcony and raised a toast, the lights went down and there stood Grace Potter.
With platinum hair and a sequin dress short enough to make Tina Turner blush, she delved into an a cappella rendition of a song I’d never heard but will surely never forget.
In that perfect moment in time, the world held its breath and stood still, the only slight movement remaining was the broken umbrella dancing far off in the distance. These words, a vocal masterpiece and an ironic testament to everything I was experiencing, sent a chill through me that still creeps up my spine each and every time I hear them.
“I have seen what man can do When the evil lives inside of you Many are the weak And the strong are few But with the water We’ll start anew
Well, won’t you take me down to the levee, take me down to the stream,
Take me down to the water, we’re gonna wash our souls clean.
Take me down to the river, take me down to the lake, Yes, we’ll all go together, we’re gonna do it for the good lord’s sake”
The rain that night took on an entirely different meaning.
We’ve all seen what evil men can do. We’ve seen it in schools and gay clubs. We’ve seen it on the news and on the campaign trail. We’ve seen it in the frightened faces of battered women and neglected children.
I’ve seen it too many times lately with my son’s self-centered, narcissistic, alcoholic father. I’ve seen it in my empty child support account. I’ve seen it in the pictures of expensive dinners on his Facebook page, when he should have been spending time with his son. I’ve seen it in meaningless court orders and cancelled plans. I’ve seen it on the face of my child when his miserable excuse for a father fails to even give him a card for Christmas.
And it makes me angry.
It fills me with rage.
It claws at me to seek vengeance.
I have toyed with many a revenge fantasy, in fact. I have dabbled in letters to the editor and “poke the bear” emails that, all in all, haven’t gotten me anywhere. I have, more frequently than I’d like to admit, searched for a certain drunken asshole on the sidewalks in town, hoping for the chance to run him over, then back over him and do it again. I have imagined throwing myself a boozy book-release party at the restaurant where he is employed, requesting him as a server, complaining about him to his boss, and not tipping him. I have considered purchasing a billboard on the highway and plastering that fuckface across it, labeling him “Father of the Year” for all to see. Around the holidays, I thought it festive to place an ad on Craigslist with his phone number, advertising hundreds of available “free Hatchimals”. Mostly, I just want to inflict upon him a miniscule fraction of the pain he has caused my son. While some of my fantasies border on the psychotic, and others just flirt with the boundaries of the law with regard to stalking and harassment, all of them make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. But it’s only a fleeting moment of ecstasy because, inevitably, morality and integrity go ahead and ruin it for me.
Then I remember the water, and the ability and necessity to wash our souls clean. And the grace of Grace.
I remember this:
I have fallen so many times For the devil’s sweet, cunning rhymes And this old world Has brought me pain But there’s hope For me again
I remember that there is hope for all of us.
Hope for the deadbeats.
Hope for the addicts.
Hope for the bigots and racists and ignorant masses.
Hope for even the big fucking assholes, I think.
There is hope for us all and, sometimes, it’s not a prayer or a friend or a big, ugly cry that reminds us of that.
Sometimes, it’s just a damn good song.
“Midnight Train to Georgia” reminds me that there is beauty in simplicity.
U2 often reaffirms for me that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
Shamelessly, and on many an occasion, Miley Cyrus has prompted me to have an impromptu “Party in the USA”, and I won’t apologize for that.
On that night, and on many since, Grace Potter has reminded me that there will always be evil but there is always hope.
On that night, in spite of myself, I reveled in the rain and rejoiced in nothing but the water and, when the show was over, my soul was content.
When the bus dropped us off late that night in the littlest of Hawkins, the rain fell gently upon us, the music beat comfortably within us, and our broken umbrella tripped the light fantastic right across our path, as though it had been waiting for us to return, at the same freaking bus stop where we had lost it hours earlier. I’m not quite sure what that Totes motherfucker was doing while we were at the concert but, whatever it was, it seemed to oddly align with our evening, though in some bizarre, umbrellacentric parallel universe.
Maybe it was time to say goodbye to all that was broken and let go.
We did not retrieve the umbrella, though maybe we should have, as it seemed perfectly content wandering the world battered and alone. Maybe it was time to say goodbye to all that was broken and let go.
We cannot always get back the ones that got away.
We cannot always mend the troubled or repair the ruined.
We cannot fight hate with hate or darkness with darkness.
But there is always hope.
And there is always the water, and the chance to appreciate the rain.
And…that is where this was supposed to end, but honesty is the best policy.
I’m not perfect by any means and, truth be told, a great deal of my hope lately has been that a certain someone drops dead. I know that’s just terrible but it’s the truth. He is the broken umbrella – the one I can’t fix or save, yet still the one that haphazardly drifts in and out of my path, fucking up our ability to move forward. I have survived many a storm without his assistance and will continue to do so. I have learned to dance in the rain and to appreciate it. But it’s not always easy and it certainly isn’t always beautiful.
And that is why I will just continue to hope that he gets what he deserves.
I hope he is disgusted with himself.
I hope he wakes up one day and cries, mourning the relationship he could have had with his son.
I hope that he doesn’t get invited to my son’s games, parties, graduation or wedding because he doesn’t deserve to be there.
I hope his new idiot girlfriend breaks up with him when she realizes that he’s using her for her house, money and car.
I hope that he loses his current job for being drunk and belligerent at work and is forced to work his way from the bottom up like the rest of us.
I hope his parents cut him off.
I hope he gets help and gets off his high horse.
I hope he chokes on his big fucking shrimp from Uncle Vinnie’s and dies.
I hope he reads this and gets mad as hell.
And I hope, as noted above, that it happens for the good lord’s sake.
“But, now, nothing but the water is gonna bring my soul to bare.” And maybe a little wine, too.