In exactly seven days (3.20.16) I’ll be celebrating four years of sobriety. Not a big deal in AA circles or in the eyes of the usually disapproving Glenn Kenny, I realize, but it sure feels good on this end. I thought about this last night, and it ushered in, ironically, memories of how happy I was in my partying days (late teens to late 20s) and…really, just how blissful things felt from time to time. Sporadically blissful, I mean. Little kisses and shots and caresses.
Not in any grounded or substantive sense — profound spiritual contentment was a long way off — but I was having so many good and happy times in the evenings (and over occasional straight-through weekend marathons). Daytime and work was another thing, but when the sun went down the adventures began! So much laughter and great sex (although the bulk of my luckiness happened between 25 and 35) and hilarious adventures and great craziness with friends.
It began to hit me around 24 or 25 that all this happiness couldn’t last, and that grimming up and getting down in the world of journalism, however satisfying or rewarding this would prove in the long run, would signal the end of my ecstasy period. It was hard, all right. “The page is turning and the joy I knew is slipping away but I have to let it go so I can start the next phase,” I told myself over and over. But God, it was so sad.
The growing awareness that my off-and-on nocturnal delight had to come to an end felt like a virus…as if a kind of spreading melancholia had taken over my system. It was around this time when terms like “the grim slide” (a term coined by Tom Wolfe) and “Hollywood Weltschmerz” became my mantras. I remember sharing the former with Jack Nicholson during a 1982 interview for The Border and Nicholson chuckling and getting it immediately, or at least in a cultural-political sense….”the grim slide!”
Now that I’m happy and rooted and sober and in the best groove of my life I can be honest and say that before I clenched my teeth and put my nose to the grindstone I loved chasing and seducing women and throwing down shots of Jack Daniels and going to parties and being the spirited guy who got into all kinds of whoo-hoo situations. It was fabulous. I can’t convey it properly or fully — you had to be there but boy, if you were you really knew what it it was like to have bliss and serenity and unhooked brassieres as occasional but fairly regular elements in your life.
I wasn’t half-drunk, drunk or stoned on quaaludes or in a state of delirious erotic anticipation or abandon every night, but I was maybe 35% or 40% of the time. The ’70s (Nixon, Ford, Carter) was probably the greatest nookie era of the 20th Century. At times it felt like I, Claudius. I’ll always be grateful that God and fate allowed me to frolic during this period…frolic like a guilty fool who half-cared and was frankly terrified about where the hell my life was going and where I’d be in ten years but on another level cared only about the next party, the next drink, the next Lemon 714, the next unbuttoned blouse, the next stroke of luck. God, it was wonderful. I can say that now.