The wife is out of town this weekend, an opportunity for me to catch up with an old friend whose idea of a good time is, to put it mildly, not shared by the distaff half of my joint tax return. He goes by a lot of names; the ancient Egyptians called him Osiris, the Greeks referred to him as Orgia, Panegyres and Dionysus, the Romans called him Bacchus. In the American vernacular, he is perhaps best-known by that all-purpose monicker “Mad Dog.”
Dionysus: “Hit me again, bro!”
The Dog and I go way back, as far as the ancient Greeks. I first came to know him as an undergraduate through Friedrich Nietzsche’s “The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music,” or for those of you keeping score at home, Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik. I looked up from that book when I finished with the wild surmise that Keats said was seen on the faces of Cortez’s men in his poem On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer. There in front of me stood his latter-day incarnation, carrying a six-pack of Miller Lite.
Nietzsche: I warned him–never mix, never worry.
We came, we saw, we partied, and ever since that fateful night, I’ve tried to stay in touch through Christmas cards and occasional bachelor nights out together. I pull up outside the Dog’s triple-decker apartment, and he bounds out with a boyish enthusiasm that belies his years, if that’s not waxing too poetic.
“Hey,” he says as he starts to get in the front seat. “What’s shakin’?” He’s wearing his usual Happy Hour casual get-up–half toga, garland of grape leaves in his long flowing hair–which I don’t have a problem with. It’s his ensign, perched upon a long pole, bearing an image of his genitalis that causes me to look askance at him. “Uh, if it’s all the same to you, I wish you’d leave that here,” I say.
“Why?” he asks, ingenuous as only a God of Party Fun can be.
“If we’re just going out for a quiet drink, I think that will draw unwanted attention.”
He shrugs, as if he’ll never understand me. “Fine,” he says and takes it back up to porch where he slips it into a metal bracket on a post. Letting his freak flag fly, indeed.
At my insistence he puts on his seatbelt, and we’re off.
“I made you a new party tape,” he says. Yes, my car is so old it still has a cassette player.
“Oh yeah? What kinda stuff?”
All right, keep your shirt on.
“Listen,” he says. After a few boomping beats, I hear the opening bars of Pink’s “Get The Party Started,” a song which, as much as I hate to admit it, I actually sort of like.
“Not bad, but I’m not changing my position on white girl singers,” I say.
“That there hasn’t been a good one since Dusty Springfield?” he asks.
“Right. If you’re going to listen to black music, why listen to white women sing it?”
“You and your anti-minstrelsy zealotry!” he says as he fires up a cigar. “You’ve gotta lighten up, dude. Get into diversity.”
“I think you’re talking reversity–not diversity.”
“Why don’t you like white people?”
“That’s not true. Some of the people I admire most–like myself–are white. It’s their–our–music I’m not so crazy about.”
“No I’m not. I’ve got a lot of Gerry Mulligan, and Chet Baker and Zoot Sims in my collection.”
That shuts him up–for the moment. He blows out a puff of cigar smoke and says “The weekend begins!”
“It’s Thursday,” I say. “I thought the weekend began on Friday.”
“Daylight Savings Party Time,” he says, with a sly smile.
I consider this for a moment. “But with Daylight Savings Time, it’s ‘Spring forward, fall back,’ so for Daylight Savings Party Time in the summer, you’d actually start on Fri–”
“DUDE!” he yells at me, exasperated. “We’re tapping into the irrational tonight. Eighty-six on your hidebound, linear rational way of thinking. Not everything has to make sense!”
William James: Party on, dude!
It’s a point he’s made to me many times before. The whole point of getting drunk is, as William James so aptly put it, “to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour.”
I always put up with a fair amount of abuse from The Dog because whenever he was around, the women followed. “Remember that time down in Austin, Texas?” I ask, growing nostalgic.
“At the Freddie King concert?”
Albert and Freddie King, #1 and #2 on my All-Time-Blues-Guitarists-Named-King list.
“Yeah, that was something.”
I remember how The Dog just started dancing, and a bunch of women joined in–our own private Bacchantae, so to speak.
“You know, you really should have joined in,” he says.
“Well, I . . . uh . . . was listening to Freddie. You know, he’s number 2 on my All-Time-Blues-Guitarists-Named-King list.”
“Before B.B.–after Albert.”
“Oh, I see. Anyway–why didn’t you, you know, get out on the floor and dance with us?”
“I was always a little self-conscious back then–a wallflower. Did I ever tell you about the time I got mimed?”
“Yeah–I was at a Roomful of Blues dance in Rhode Island when a mime came up and started imitating me. I was leaning up against a wall, he leaned up against an imaginary wall. I looked shy, he made big ‘I’m so shy’ eyes. It was mortifying.”
“Hmm. So you’ve missed out on the fun before.”
I gave him a skeptical look. Maybe I’m just a stupid human, but sometimes deities can be somewhat lacking in self-awareness too.
“You don’t remember what happened that night in Austin, do you?”
“I guess not. I had a few Lone Star Beers as I recall.”
” . . . and some tequila. And some Dos Equis.”
“Well, yeah, probably.”
“So you have no recollection that those women you were dancing with, they tore you to pieces and ate you?”
He looked at me as if I was crazy. “They did?”
“Yep. It’s a pagan precursor of the Christian Eucharist.”
He was speechless for a moment. Finally, he said “Jesus.”
“On the nosey,” I said, to finish the historical link.
“So how did I get . . . here . . . now?”
“You’re reincarnated throughout history, in different forms and in different cultures.”
“You betcha, as a certain non-running presidential contender with a PTO-President hairdo likes to say.”
“So . . . I drink . . . I die . . . and I come back again?”
“That’s the routine,” I said.
He looked out the window, then turned to me as a smile formed slowly on his lips. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a half-pint of Tvarschki’s Lime Vodka, the first liquor I ever got drunk on, and spoke.
“Then we have some serious partying to do tonight, my friend!”