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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

MAINSTREET ON ALL FOURS........................................(ROVING REPORTER AT THE HEALTH SPA)


Cover photo                      MAINSTREET ON ALL FOURS       



Johnny was sitting in the corner hiding his face
in the paper. Someone upstairs sounded as if
he were beating a dead horse with  a baseball bat.
My girl had taken off down the block with
eleven Chinese guys.
         The situation was getting seriously out of hand,
and I could see very few alternatives for the evening.
It was time to tackle the assignment I had been
meaning to cover for months. The theme? Well,
what is it like to be a bender drinker?I wondered.
I intended to find out. What drove so many
seemingly normal people to such horrific extremes?
         I saw it as a Jekyll and Hyde story - the
bender drinker... sober all day long, then smashed
to the gills at night - sometimes many nights. The
story of the lost weekend  sometimes became the
lost week, the lost month, etc. "How did I get here?"
I remember asking myself upon awakening
by surprise in Porto Rico.
        (It's rather like the foot-fetishist if you 
really think about it. He never knows when
the compulsion will overtake him and he'll
be diving under some table after someone's high-heel
shoe.) So it is with the bender drinker.
He just never knows when it's going to start
to bend.
         Those few I could catch to interview
answered my question of, "Why" with: "I just
needed a drink, that's all." 

          But I was not to be put off with such
a simplistic answer. There has to be a deeper
reason. And I was going to find out what drove
these poor depraved souls. Was it a fear of
sobriety?  A fear of society?  A fear of the wife?
The boss?

          I ask Johnny. He says, "First,
I need a drink." I buy him one. He drinks it.
He looks better. I begin to understand.
"Another one?" I ask.  "Why not?" he replies.
Down it goes. He looks better still. 
        "You want one?" he asks.
"Sure," I reply. I have an in depth
study to do. I quaff a beer. The pool table
looks better to me. So does Bertha. We
buy a jug of Northern draft, poor fools
that we are. He, a bender drinker, and 
I, a simple reporter. And Bertha, a
waitress, and my girl gone. 

        And so the Odyssey began.
We left the roof bar at the Moose
then hit Cecil's, We sampled the draft
there, then a crowd of us hit the
dance floor at the Zoo next door. Then
we drifted out down along Mainstreet
and I remember staring at the asphalt
outside Taste of the World. I stared for
a long time at the tarmac. Then we
hit the Fraser Tavern, but it was getting
late: it was 3:00 P.M.
        We stepped out into the bright
sunlight. I blinked twice, like a camel.
It was summer. The sun was hot on my face.
So we did the only logical thing: we took
some cold sparkling rose (pronounced rose-eh)
down to the shore of Lake Nipissing and lit a
fire in the sand. And watched the sun
go down.
        "John, do you do this a lot?" I ask him.
        "Only when I have to," he replied
        "How often is that?" I asked.
         "Every day," he replied.
          "But are you happy?" I ask him.
          "Naturally," he said, "Look at
that sun."
           The sun indeed was magnificent.
Doesn't the name, 'Nipissing' mean shining
waters or something? Isn't it a most
unique lake, with its magnetic, rolling clouds,
like an inland sea? Are not the two lakes
the greatest asset of our precious little city?
Now that the front door of our town opens
to a large expanse of parkland on Lake
Nipissing, are we not ensuring the
financial longevity of our city?
         Your  Roving Reporter is not being
political here. He is  merely
stating the obvious.
         A favourite expression of an old
teacher of mine was, 

        "Nobody sees the obvious."

         You can drink four bottles of
rose in front of Lake Nipissing
and the whole process is
rather like a sulphur bath
for your health.
          Hell, I took one look at
Johnny and he didn't look a day
over forty, and he's only thirty-
five. If he liked in the Big Smoke,
he would have been thirty-five
going on sixty.
          My assignment was to write
a story on bender drinking. I even
went on a bender, but I end up
writing about a health spa!  Oh well,
you can never predict what may
come up.
          By the way, Johnny is alive
and well and living in a box car.
And I'm on my way to  buy
a bottle and go catch the sunset.


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