On this day, I can't help but reflect. This time last year, we were getting ready to host a New Year's Day Going Away Brunch and then embark on the adventure of living on the lake. The goal was to spend a year residing on a pair of houseboats in an effort to gain self-sufficiency, hone my writing, and discover my true purpose, while documenting the experience in a book called Bourbonista on a Boat: From Glamour Girl to Off-the-Grid.
After serious contemplation, I have decided this book may never happen. Why? Because you are more likely to lose friends and family by writing about them than you are by leaking government security secrets, sleeping with their spouses, or having horrendous halitosis.
I have no problem revealing warts and all about myself. Frank, by marrying a writer, signed on, too. But the rest of the characters in my life and on the dock did not. And, let's face it. It's our flaws that make us interesting fodder. But not everyone wants to see their idiosyncrasies in print.
Is it worth it to risk alienating your loved ones for the sake of "art?" I'm still not sure. But I'm offering you the preface for your judging pleasure. .
*Disclaimer: Keep in mind that I am called the Bourbonista for a reason. My recollections of the following events are as accurate as I could make them while under the consistent influence of Old Fitzgerald."
No one was surprised that I committed a federal offense. However, everyone, including myself, was shocked by the chain of events that followed. This is the story of a life-altering trip—future pun intended, but no LSD involved.
The Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Mine did not. It began with approximately forty-three staggering steps that stretched over two downtown blocks and ended with me lying face-first on Church Street.
Now, I am no stranger to falling. My first memory is of running across my grandmother’s driveway, staring down at my new tennis shoes. They had red uppers, a sunshine yellow tongue, and bright blue laces. Those Keds were perfection in primary colors. One moment, I was the wind and my feet were a rainbow. The next, I was a sobbing heap with bloody knees and a chin full of gravel.
Forty years later, there I was lying on the sidewalk bewildered and bruised. Again, shoes were the culprit. Except this time, they were a ridiculously expensive pair of gray suede, four-inch platform ankle boots with an open toe and a ruffle down the side. They represented everything that was wrong with my life.
I had known better than to wear them. There were never parking spaces downtown at midday near Café Lucinda. It was a Lexington landmark frequented by lawyers, ladies who lunched for a living, and people in town for the horse races at Keeneland.
Despite, being quite well-connected, I’d never met Lucinda the Legend…at least, not that I could recall. The chef that was as famous for her Bohemian behavior as her buttermilk fried quail. It was rumored she was a long-standing VIP at Studio 54; a spy during Vietnam; a muse for painter, David Hockney; and had slept with Golda Meir. In addition to the restaurant, she ran a halfway house for recovering addicts and had a veritable mermaid museum in her apartment, which housed over one thousand of the mythical sea vixens. If she and I had met, it would probably have been at the kind of party that didn’t lend itself to clear memories the next morning.
As the editor of a local lifestyle magazine, it was my job to photograph and profile her for an upcoming issue.
Immediately upon entering the cafe, I came to the conclusion that people must be able to reincarnate not only as cockroaches and Shirley MacLaine, but as rooms as well. In a previous life, this one had been a can-can dancer. The color scheme encompassed every shade of pink from bunny nose rose to flamingo fuchsia and shamelessly boasted flamboyant emerald green and cheetah print accents. Chandeliers and fringed fixtures, no two alike, hung over each white cloth-clad table. Napkins fanned out from the tops of crystal wine glasses. Reigning over the dining room, a semi-nude portrait of the proprietress seduced patrons as they gorged on foie gras. Despite its attempt to be casually avant-garde, it was the kind of place that always made me feel like I was using the wrong fork.
Lucinda entered from the back and explained that one of her “boys” had relapsed and gotten arrested. Between posting bail and coming up with the day’s lunch special, she hadn’t had time to put on her make-up. Using her reflection in the antique cash register, she slathered on a coat of lipstick and informed me that she’d prefer to wear just her chef’s coat and red patent pumps for the shoot. She climbed up on the bar, popped the cork on a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque, and poured a glass to use as a prop. I took a quick series of photographs of her toasting the camera and then began the interview.
Sometime in the course of our conversation, I mentioned that I was dating Frank Rose. She smirked and purred, “Really…I hope you don’t plan on getting serious.”
In response, I flashed my engagement ring.
“Have you ever met his ex?” she asked.
The ex was a constant source of insecurity for me. None of our friends or relatives could understand why I would be in the least bit intimidated by a woman who had done time for both possession and prostitution, and was by all accounts a succubus. People were constantly congratulating Frank on our union, as if a foul-mouthed alcoholic like me was a huge step up. I, however, couldn’t help feeling that he and she had some “Sid and Nancy, sex, drugs, and rock and roll” bond sealed in vomit and sweat that could never be broken.
“No, I’ve never met her.”
Another smirk. “She’s back in town, you know?”
The rest of the interview was a blur of kissing ass and asking questions. Finally, I had enough to write the requisite one hundred and fifty words. With a generic goodbye, I bolted out the door toward my office and the awaiting flask in my top desk drawer.
As I wambled down the sidewalk on legs as unsteady as a newborn giraffe’s, a barrage of thoughts flooded my head.
“Why do I care about what other people think so much that I will sacrifice my values to try to impress a stranger?”
“How did I get so frickin' fat?”
“When am I going to finally find my purpose in life and stop wasting it? Do I even have a purpose in life? Does anyone? Or is that just feel-good, self-help bullshit?”
“How did I get so obsessed with his crack whore ex that I would drive all around town just to find a copy of Busted magazine to see her latest mugshot?”
“Why am I killing my ass in a job where no one appreciates me and I get paid less than the delivery drivers? Why don't I have the balls to ask for a raise?”
“Am I a genuine alcoholic or just a problem drinker? Should I stop? Could I stop?”
“Do I actually have the talent and discipline to write anything legitimate ever again?”
“Why do I wear high heels when they make me so fucking miserable?”
“Who the hell am I?”
As I was asking myself these questions, my heel slipped in between the bars of a sewer grate. First, I faltered, then I began a fall that was both epic in its length and symbolic significance. It was marked by intermittent periods of almost regaining my footing and composure quickly followed by pure panic as my face headed straight for the street.
After ricocheting between parking meters and cars, I crashed into a Mercedes sedan, setting off the alarm, and then succumbed to the sidewalk. Congratulations, concrete, you win.
From my gutter vantage point, it became clear that I needed to step back, reassess, and make some major alterations. Something had to change. Maybe, everything had to change. I just knew I never wanted to feel that helpless and humiliated and utterly lost again. I made a promise to find myself…even if I had to go to the ends of the earth to do it.
Blood from a gash on my shin had stained the dove gray suede of my shoebooties—the name was even more preposterous than the footwear. These shoes, and all they stood for, had to go. I vowed, then and there, to banish high heels from my new life. In a frenzy of liberation, I yanked off the sadistic stilettos and shoved them into the nearest receptacle, which just happened to be a United States Postal Service mailbox. Thus, I committed a felony, and embarked on a whole new breed of insanity.
the bourbonistA, Promoting Debauchery and stamping out political-correctness one blog at a time.