Annie Dillard once told me — okay she told an audience of about three hundred people in Houston — that writers have to get out of their heads sometimes, otherwise their work suffers. As an introvert and socially awkward person I find great comfort absconded in my atelier with all of my fetishes within easy reach. I write best this way, but I do fear my content is not always as best served. Flashes of greater work come when I dare to venture out. Recently, I attended my first AA meeting after 17 years of sobriety. Greg, the husband of my wife’s co-worker, is in AA and I had wanted to go to support him and, to be honest, to peek behind the curtain. I never felt I needed to attend AA meetings because I quit cold turkey and never looked back; it might have been the greatest thing I’d ever done. The meeting was a Friday night and it went off more or less as I expected, except for Greg’s sponsor (the person Greg relies on to help him through the twelve-step process) who took great umbrage at my years of sobriety without the need of “a meeting.” In not so many words he questioned my drunken bona fides. I didn’t waver, nor do I now writing this some months later. But the episode, outside of my atelier and cerebral echo chamber, did provide me with some rich material:
At Uncle Bill’s, St. Louis’ original pancake house established in 1960 to serve diners at any hour, friends of Bill W., sat without the malaise of irony around some pushed-together tables circumnavigated by a short, dirty blonde, with money-green eyeshadow, whose name was Meridian.
While a drunk is self-composed, the revision requires iron counsel. Agency and alcohol don’t mix. The bottle corked by many hands seen and unseen. The post-meeting meal is a continuous one arising out of fellowship and appetite suppression. Order taken, orders for sustaining a repaired staircase used in prostration. Orders for mending. Order out of the liquid chaos into the steady clutch of forces indescribable, yet intermittently, alighting as if from a fog lifted, coming to be witnessed as a pride of ancient lions licking; then, as serene diners in the waning hours of some dark day, nodding over black coffee, murmuring not to dig graves before dying.