While for many it’s an abstract word, salvation for me was something tangible. From 1999 to about 2006 salvation was the sense of euphoria that washed over me nine to twelve beers into the night. During those youthful days I drank and performed sexually as if I had something to prove. Friday Nights revolved around pounding shot, after shot, after shot. Then of course after I’d finish, I’d shower and then go for some drinks. There was no drink too foul, no dare to egregious.
Back in the Day
There were no drinking games. There was just this need to yank myself away from the uniformity of life either with friends or solitarily. Alcohol sublimated the emotional and psychological pain I felt. It quieted my general misanthropy. It wasn’t too long before being yanked out of mind and body I fell in love with this new sense of levity. While under the influence I could be extremely amorous, however more often than not I drank alone in complete silence lost in thought.
My alcohol tolerance then was legendary, as were my antics. There was nudity, screaming hollering and hysterical jokes. In one instance if not for my friend’s fast-thinking I would have gotten arrested for disturbing the peace. Alcohol was basically an accelerant. Depending on where I was in my oscillations between the extremes of depression and mania, it push me towards whichever extreme I was closest. Sobering up was the worst, not just because of the hangover but I could feel the shackles on again. Gone was that sense of levity. Gone was the euphoria. and there was a pervasive chagrin in their stead.
Now I am not in the same place. The pain is there and real, but I am older and more mature. I have other healthier ways of dealing with it. Every now and then I go to a pub and sit there and drink, make conversation with strangers and the usual 3-5 pints of Guinness and 2 shots of Jameson. I usually drink at home once a week, and I end up playing some songs steeped in nostalgia. I sing out loud off key to annoy MrsMary who eventually joins in because I’m that irritating. games of Wii tennis are played.
But you know what I’ve noticed the most?
There is a significant change in energy. Robert Bly in his Iron John has said of adolescence that” It [adolescence] is the time of risk-taking for boys, and that risk taking is also a yearning for initiation.” In what we would call traditional societies adolescence is the time where the older men of the tribe or community take the young males and initiate them into adulthood. One of the failures of our society is the lack of initiation of adolescent boys into men. I think the prevalence of gangs, and gang culture is a testimony to that. With no one there young men initiate each other into their gangs and you see the result in the news.
This is one of the major themes of Kerouac’s On the Road. With no one there for Sal or Dean, what do they do ? They go on the road, it is an act of defiance and rebellion.
According to Kingsley Widmer’s The Literary Rebel, “to take to the road is initiation ritual and educational foray, as well as a rebellion against the given circumstances”. Taking to the road in Kerouac’s novel is both escaping and returning, or circling and criss-crossing the continent, “leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move”
“We gotta go and never stop going till we get there.”
“Where are we going, man?”
“I don’t know but we gotta go.”
The saddest part about on the road is that they do not have a clear site of the goal and often return again to how they were. The book ends as it begins with Sal thinking about Dean Moriarity. Look at the last paragraph of on the Road:
“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”
Adolescence some have argued continues on nowadays til 25 and I can looking at my life, vouch for that. Things are very different now. Thirty-two feels very different from 25. The craziness has died down a lot, and I found my own “initiation into society”. It still peaks out here and there, but for the most part unless I am in Vegas or celebrating something I feel much more stable.