This week I’ve been largely obsessed with a new miniseries on HBO called The Jinx. It’s like a true-crime documentary/interview/creative non-fiction project. The show’s full name is, I suppose, “The Jinx: The Lifes and Deaths of Robert Durst.” Does that name sound familiar? It may–it seems the murders associated with Robert Durst garnered a lot of media attention in the not-so-distant past. The show is a lot of fun to watch, for a grisly and ghoulish as it is, thanks to editors who understand how to craft drama. Interviews end at the right time, cut to dramatic music, a reinactment of a crime, then return to the interview. Like all good true-crime novels, certain things are amplified to make reality extra-exciting for viewers of The Jinx, but reality itself is the most exciting part to watch thanks to the center of attention: Robert Durst. The things the man does outside of possible murders, are fascinating and strange. I mean, when he was on the run from Galveston, Texas for murder, he risked it all to shoplift a hoagie from a Wegmans in Pennslyvania… so I remain glued to the TV, wanting more and more from this guy… what will he say next?
So I’m flying tomorrow, that’s crazy. I hope things aren’t as… slushy, as they are here in Pittsburgh. I’ll be gone for almost ten days but it’ll be good. I feel like I have nothing but city plans, like everything I want to do over break is: go to the city for a concert, go to a museum in the city, meet a colleague in the city, city, city, city. Not so surprising I guess, I mean there are places and people I love on Long Island but… you have to drive. And the thought of driving just does not go super smoothly for me, like I can feel a bit of the driving anxiety just writing about it now. I think I was born for walking and mass transit.
Writing about Alcohol
Today I spent an hour in the library just looking at, and looking for, books on alcohol–the history of it, the drinking of it–and specifically gin and vodka. I found a half-dozen pleasant books with Martini glasses on them, but I checked out the three I liked best; “Everyday Drinking” by Kingsley Amis, “A History of Vodka” by William Pokhlebkin, and “The Book of Gin” by Richard Barnett. “Everyday Drinking” is going to be the most enjoyable, since it seems to come from a humorous and witty author, Sir Kingsley Amis. I am unfamiliar with the man, yet he comes strongly recommended by Christopher Hitchens. “He was what the Irish call “your man” when it came to the subject of drink.” And later from Hitchens: “It has been said that alcohol is a good servant and a bad master. Nice try. The plain fact is that it makes other people, and indeed life itself, a good deal less boring.”
I left the library with a pretty solid idea of what I have to write about. Histories of alcohols have been written, stories about alcohol, celebrations and warnings, so I need to cut myself a new space to claim as my own. Taste, and the social identity of the drinker. If we have “all-natural,” “old school,” “modern,” “trashy,” “classy,” and “apathetic,” then where do these identities and practices come from? Is it the drinker’s intent that determines how they drink? At this moment I tend to think that if you don’t care about what you drink, then you drink to get drunk, or drink to be social. Me personally? I think I’d refuse to just drink beers, and if there weren’t any cocktails available, or wines and sherries, then I wouldn’t drink, even if that had social consequences. Comedian Jim Jefferies has this joke where somebody who doesn’t drink says they don’t drink “because they don’t like the taste.” Jim then shouts “Nobody does! We drink because we have to!” And it’s funny and everything, sure, but I’m not in that place. I drink because I can make really good drinks, and, AND, because of the social perks involved. And there are social perks to being a cocktail-maker, to showing up to a house party with a Martini glass, a shaker, ice, and your own ingredients. There are social perks to being a little classy!