I went out to see The Menzingers last night, and now I am dead. My evening began with vodka and ended with sausage gravy—yet somehow now it all begins again, horribly, in the twilight of undeath. I don’t even have bacon in the house. I could go to Albertson’s and get it, but the people in the store would be taken aback by my grisly appearance. “There is a sad man,” they would say, “hung over on Wednesday morning.” I guess I’d have to get there pretty soon for them to say that, since it is almost noon.
To be hung over on a Wednesday is to face a choice. You can embrace your past mistakes as the necessary preconditions of your present, awful consciousness and see yourself clearly. Probably it won’t feel great. Or you can retreat into bad faith, fleeing the terrible responsibility that attends freedom by telling yourself it wasn’t your fault—that Ben al-Fowlkes did it by buying you whiskey after the show, for god’s sake, and McMackin was the Johnny Appleseed of tall boys. But the strain of selling yourself what you do not believe would erode the psychic resources you need to not vomit through your nose.
By you I mean me. Like my own revolting body, the body politic also faces a choice this morning. Clearly, it is ill. It can admit that past choices have hurt it and try to make today productive, perhaps by embracing the Keynesian technocracy the President described last night in his State of the Union Address. That would require abandoning one of the most fashionable canards of civic disengagement, that the problem with government is we have one. Maybe, as Richard Stevenson suggests, we are watching a President try to “shift the ideological center of the nation” in the way Reagan did.
Or maybe he’s Kenyan! On the other horn of the dilemma, Joe Arpaio remains safely hidden in a fantasy of himself. America’s toughest Sheriff has created a posse—he calls it a posse—of armed volunteers to guard Arizona’s schools, since gun control isn’t going to do it. One of his volunteers turned out to be a child sex criminal, which is to say a criminal who pursued sex with children, not a child criminal. They would have caught that. Also, Arpaio hired weapons inexpert Steven Seagal, who called children “our most precious asset.”
Clearly, Arpaio is protecting the people of Arizona through the enforcement of law, and not aggrandizing himself in order to pretend that his choices these last few years have been good. He’s tough. He’s so tough he doesn’t care what anybody thinks, and here’s Steven Seagal to…no, no. It’s not convincing.
You cannot hide who you are from yourself. You never get an opportunity, because you’re always looking. You can turn a blind eye; you can refuse to testify at the trial, but you’re still a witness. To sit silent before yourself, to plead the fifth as it were, is nerve-wracking, and my nerves are already a bunch of wrack. This Wednesday morning, I admit my mistakes, my problem.
I should have drank some water between the show and our return to the Golden Rose. That would have hydrated me better for Ben’s whiskey and Jason’s mad conviction that we should drink even more tall boys, and also it was Ben’s idea to go see the Menzingers in the first place. But I’m not blaming them. I made my choices, and I take full responsibility for choosing not to remember to drink enough water when my friends made me drink all that beer.
Now I pay a heavy price. It’s worth it, though, to be a little wiser, a little more thoroughly schooled by this stern lecturer we call living, and maybe four pounds lighter. My mouth is like a moth’s wing, but my mind is like a moth’s wing with the powder rubbed off: clear, and probably dead soon. It’s been a good run. I’d like to have turned it around at the end, but there was nothing I could do.