The Martini Effect – Chapter 16 (The Bathroom Karamazov)
(We rejoin our Dharma Drunk heroes roving the streets somewhere between Brooklyn and Queens.)
We slip into a random bar on a random street from a random corner just needing a random bathroom.
Marylou heads to the ladies’ room and I walk into the men’s.
A moment alone for the first time in ages. A moment away from the search. On and on and on as we look to find a place of peace. Inebriated bliss in just the right corner. Just the right stool to sit upon. Just the right color of light through the window. Just the right music on the jukebox. Just the right place. Just the right feeling. Just the right smiles on the people to the left and the right of us. Just the right place. Perfect place. Perfect feeling.
Shangri-La. Shangri-La. Shangri-La.
On and on and on and on and on.
The fear starts to crawl into my gut as it often does.
What if there’s no Shangri-La for Marylou to find?
Marylou’s words at the Greenpoint mural keep ringing back to me like the hum at the back of the brain you get from a bunk high. A hum that sometimes snarls into feedback. Like the high strings played on the high frets of a guitar.
Like a snarling whiplash.
We speak. We shout. We demand. We post. We tweet. We retweet. We post again. We share. We threaten. We spew. We friend. We unfriend. We connect. We reconnect. We disconnect. We reappear. We disappear.
We’re still lost.
What if no one cares?
Because nobody else can hear anyone else through the snarling feedback that’s wailing at the back of their own brains.
We’re all suffering from the same bunk high.
Because we’re all passing the same bunk joint. Sniffing the same bunk glue. Can’t see through the smoke. Can’t hear through the snarling feedback.
And then my eyes pull focus and I see the quote from THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV staring me down from the bathroom wall.
“We are all in paradise, but refuse to see it…”
And I think back to moments of Dostoyevsky paradise when the light outside the bars was perfect and the buzz inside the bars was electric. Moments worthy of the most romantic Russian novel.
When the pub walls shimmered from the midday sun pouring into the darkened room. And I could see the age-old sweat on the boxers’ brows. Men who fought. Men who won. Men who lost. Men who overcame. Men who underwhelmed. Men who wanted nothing more than blood coursing through their veins as they triumphed over something enormous or found themselves bludgeoned into pulpy defeat.
They would take no substitute. No middle ground. No room for apathy. They lived and died at the highs and lows.
When the bars were lit by the bright winter sun outside. No haze. Just bright blue brilliance from the frigid sky shining through the window.
And the smiles. All the smiles.
And the snarling feedback tunes out and the riffs of Dostoyevsky play through my head.
“’Mother,’ he would answer, ‘don’t be sad. Life is paradise; we all live in paradise, although we don’t want to see it. As soon as we are willing to recognize it, the whole world will become a paradise; it could happen tomorrow, any time.”
– THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (translated by Andrew H. MacAndrew)
(To be continued…)