Thursday, December 13, 2012

Postcards From My Childhood Part 5: The Strong Drunk

Previous installment
First installment
All installments in reverse chronological order

"The child is the father of the man", they say. Surprisingly, I understood this even as a child. And so I willfully sent forward to my elder self some thoughts and images which I knew would be helpful, and which I suspected I'd otherwise forget.

When I was 16, I took the train into Manhattan for my weekly trombone lessons in a claustrophobic little music studio near scary Times Square. This was 1978, the era of unending strikes, racial unrest, corruption, budget defaults, crumbling infrastructure and rampant muggings and car thefts. When it came out in 1981, the sci-fi film "Escape From New York" didn't seem like so huge a stretch.

So I picked up a book about "urban survival", which turned out to be pretty silly, though highly amusing. But it did contain one insight which I've retained. In the chapter about surviving bar fights, it explained that drunk people are sluggish and clumsy, so it's easy to outrun or outmaneuver them. But if they ever get their hands firmly on you, watch out, because drunks are stronger than sober people.

I've never been in a bar fight, but the image of the strong drunk has become a touchstone for me. Time and again I've found myself confronting people (or institutions) functioning as Strong Drunks, and who therefore needed to be finessed or adroitly outmaneuvered. The mantra is: don't ever let them get you in their clutches!

Cops, for example, are strong drunks. If a policeman decides, rightly or wrongly, that you're on the wrong team, and has you within his grasp, you will be out of options. There's ample maneuvering room in defusing that determination, but if it goes the wrong way, and you're within their range, you'll find yourself utterly powerless.

Cockroaches are the opposite. A roach can't hold or harm you...but they hide well and they run fast. If you manage to catch one, it can be effortlessly stamped out, but there are always more of them craftily evading you, and you can't do much about it. To a cockroach, you are the strong drunk.

Read the next installment


Dave said...

Great. I'm slow and sober.

Unknown said...


pcassady said...

Such great imagery! And very good advice!

Unknown said...

this is the post i find most interesting. as well as the nytimes profile from 2006.

put it this way, jim, if i could only speak to 3 people related to this heinous event, including the assailant(s) or victims, you would certainly be one.

christian white

Unknown said...

again, the more i read this post the more i admire your balls. for lack of a better term...

i love this blog!

Blog Archive