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Friday, March 13, 2009

Books, Broads and Booze

There are times when one must sit around of a Friday eve and watch basketball, sip whiskey and contemplate, if not ruminate about the world and ones role within it. Such a night would seem to be upon us. Translated this means that there is not much going on around the island tonight and the ACC tournament is on. As I begin my latest epistle, Maryland is leading Wake Forest in the second half, my glass is newly filled and all would seem right in the universe for the moment. Of course, I drink faster and the Terps have blown bigger leads so we shall see how long the world stays so happy a place.

As they do so often on quiet nights my thoughts turn to the formative forces and times of my life. By any counts it has thus far been an interesting journey with twist and turns worthy of a novel, provided Hunter Thompson, SE Hinton and F. Scott Fitzgerald had collaborated on such an adventure. I would love to include Hemingway but I haven’t boxed in over 35 years and hunting and such bores me shitless. The 16 year old high school drop out I once was had no idea that life would turn out the way it has. It’s been fun, it’s been educational and quite a ride. Like all thrill rides it has had some bumps and scary times. (Although I am blessed with that special stupidity that is rarely afraid. More like curious as to just what the fuck else is going to go wrong). Somehow I have managed to have a career in an industry no one in my neighborhood had any idea existed. Hell, working on the line at GM or Sparrows Point, maybe a nice government job was the height of our ambitions. Somehow I got form there to hear and one has to wonder what the chief forces have been that drive such a life. The answer of course lies in the 3B’s of my existence. Books, Broads (yeah, yeah I know politically incorrect and all that shit but female acquaintances and companions doesn’t have the same zing does it?) and booze.

Books have been the chief driver of my intellect and what paltry accomplishments I have achieved. I cannot claim that I did anything to spur my love of reading. I was just born this way. My mother encouraged it and each week through my youth we made the trek to the Drug Fair parking lot to check out books form the bookmobile service provided by the public library. I loved that damn thing. Just a big old bus full of books free for the taking. Mom never told us what we could or could not read. Whatever struck us was fair game I could check out some Alistair McLean adventure novels , Churchill’s histories or even some racy Harold Robbins novels. I read everything and anything. I almost looked forward to being grounded when I was a teen. In the summer I would climb a tree in the yard and read for hours, hidden from the world. I was a teenager when I read Solzhenitsyn. I read damn near everything he ever wrote the summer between 7th and 8th grade. I still remember poor old Mr. Taylor calling me a liar when we did the first day of school what did we read over the summer role call. There I stood in cuffed jeans, greasy hair and Chuck Taylors talking about the Gulag Archipelago. The class ended, as did a lot the rest of the year with the hood and the teacher arguing about books while the rest of the class fucked off.

Books have been a driving force in my life. Both parents were brilliant people who were big readers. I was literally born a speed reader. To this day I read just about a book a day. I read everywhere. I have read in schools, churches and jails. I read on the beach, on planes, wherever I find myself. My apartment is a literally cluttered with books most of the time. As my son says “ya know Dad, I feel like I live in the worlds messiest library.” Without them I would probably still be that high school dropout.

Who influences me the most? I think they all did. Shakespeare who opened my eyes to the romance and excitement of words and the world they described. Hunter Thompson ,who taught me to embrace the weirdness of it all. Ayn Rand is how I finally figured out that I was responsible for my own actions. She has some fucked up ideas about relationships and has the compassion of a damn stone but she does exude a passion for life and achievement.

COMMERCIAL BREAK” Maryland did it. We beat Wake and go to the semi’s. The NCAA doesn’t put us in the dance now they should be horsewhipped like the brainless, soulless dim witted fucktards they are. We should play Duke next and I cannot with for another shot as those bastards.
Books eventually set my career. As a young salesman I read all the Ziglar and Hopkins I could find. I read the Norman Vincent Peales and Napoleon Hills to discover the power of the mind. Back in the days of my door to door sales career these helped keep me focused on the next door and forget the last three slammed in my face.

A lot of value investors tell me that Ben Graham’s writings were their epiphany. For me it was when my mentor to be (reluctantly I promise you. I was a pain in the ass) gave me a copy of Marty Whitman’s Aggressive Conservative Investor. The concept of asset based investing just made an enormous amount of sense to me. From there I moved on to Graham and Ed Altman and learned equity and credit analysis. I loved Victor Neiderhoffers Education of a Speculator. His unusual and unique way of thinking about markets helped me avoid getting stuck in my ways and approach. My eventual friendship with the author after email exchanges was one of the most positive influences in my life and my career.

The lessons of history are there for the taking. Jefferson to Churchill. Thomas Paine to Ronald Reagan. He stories of the patriots, pioneers and ner do wells that birth a nation. The seriously demented authors of Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto who sought to destroy a world. All available for the taking merely by opening a book. Hell, you can damn near learn history by reading historical novels. WEB griffin for one has made the story of the US Military for 1940 through current time’s fun to read. Bernard Cornwells Sharpe novels make European history interesting. Patrick O’Briens Jack Aubrey books bring the life of the British navy alive and understandable.

Then there are the just for fun writers that I read just to escape. Robert parker (although truthfully one could learn to cook and fight reading the Spencer series). Randy Wayne Whites Doc Ford series has become a favorite. Travis McGee remains my hero and role model. If Christopher Moore is not the funniest son of a bitch whoever set paper to pen, he is a candidate. How can you not love a drunken lecher like Charles Bukowski? Dorothy Parker could have easily been the great love of mu life if not for that multi decade difference in birth dates. The poems of Cumming with their aggressive sensuality, Yeats with his lyrical quest for love and freedom, Baudelaire’s Be Drunk, all of these delight the mind and inflame the inner mind.
Books taught me romance. They taught me history, math, passion, and an appreciation of life.They have entertained me. My career path was shaped by them. They are easily the most dominant of the B’s.

Which of course brings us to broads. Women, the fairer sex, the delight of my soul and bane of my existence. Nothing else in life can take you as high or lay you as low as a woman. From the majesty of a first kiss to the soul crushing wine drenched break up that leaves you a blithering idiot for days on end, they are the best and worst of life. It has been my experience that it is far more the former than the latter. I have finds that have been crushed enough times in the dance of romance that they give up and avoid anything that might look like a relationship. Fuck that. There is always a chance that I find the Bacall to my Bogart and that will always be worth the risk of heartbreak (although I could do with out the lawyers and the judges when it turns out to be Sinatra and Gardner instead).

I will always be an Irish romantic. To give up on romance and the mere possibility of finding that perfect partner, she with whom I match on all levels, a partner and lover, would seem to me to take much of the meaning out of life. I confess that at 47 at times the search is a pain in the ass and I have come to loath the early stages of the dating process but sometime there is a click for however ling that continues to offer a glimpse of possibilities. If I never find it, at least I ll have a lot of fun, nights of dancing at the dock bar to blues under the stars, dinners with eyes sparkling in the candlelight,, that first anxious clumsy fingering enrobing, the comfortable sensuality of a familiar lover and all the other moments that are forever frozen in my memory.

Like everyone else my age and still single, there have been successes that did not last as well as spectacular fuckups along the way. Some were my fault. Some were not. From each of them as time passes and the scars fade I find that there are memories that I would trade for the pain of the aftermath. Quit? Not going to happen. Ill take the scars if I can have those moments that do work. A rainy Sunday morning with the coffee and New York Times, Nat King Cole on the stereo playing footsie at the breakfast table. Lying on the beach together barely touching but deeply aware of the touch. A long conversation about hopes dreams and desires over a bottle of three of wine. Goodnight kisses and passionate awakenings. Finishing each others sentences, laughing at private jokes, slow dancing with no music playing, love letters and late night phone calls. Are you telling me the me risk of getting hurt outweigh these, or the possibility they last the proverbial forever? What a chicken shit way to live.

Bringing us of course to booze. Like so many other Irishman before me I am an unabashed drinker. I really don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about it. I laugh out loud at people who tell me that drinking alone is not good for me. Shit I like MY own company. A book with a glass of wine and I m a happy fucking camper. Put a baseball game on turned down low at the same time and that about as happy as I can be with my clothes on. Bring me a bunch of friends and a long boozy dinner at the bar with lots of laughter and I consider that a great evening. Long conversations with old friends over a cigar and a good scotch are among my favorite things. Cruising down the bay with a frosty gin and tonic as the sunset paints the sky is a joyous occasion. I have toasted my weddings with champagne and endured divorce with Rumpleminz( okay so maybe that wasn’t such a good idea). I made the final decision to switch career paths last year over a glass of Famous Grouse. I have fallen in both love and lust over a bottle of wine. I have lifted a glass in a final toast after too many wakes. I miss the days when booze and cigarettes were an accepted part of life I don’t miss work because of the prior night with the exception of March 18th and the day after a jimmy Buffet concert. . I tell every first date I smoke and I drink and I have no attention of stopping. I don’t drink until I can’t work, I have never needed a drink but I do enjoy one. In the poetic words of my Celtic forefathers, fuck you I drink.

The three B’s. Now if I could just find a smart romantic sensuous woman who likes cocktail and books, life would be complete. Until then, I ll have a drink and finish my book.

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