Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blackout, featuring canned okra and collard greens

People who drink have their own warning signs that change over time, and with their degrees of use/abuse, and don't always correspond with the official warnings of the American medical establishment. I had a Chardonnay experience several weeks ago that startled me enough to provide the motivation to make what, so far, seem like positive changes in my alcohol consumption.

SMALL DISCLAIMER: I'm sharing this story in the service of blog honesty and my ethic of personal expression, not as an invitation for readers, friends and family to help police my wine glass count.

If graphed, the drinking of my lifetime would have a number of peaks and valleys. This past winter the numbers started climbing up again, and the Cancun trip, with constant free beverages, was hardly a drying out. I didn't like the way that wine had pushed into my daily routine or my sense that I needed it to write. In a way it was a relief when I felt so disgusted by my blackout, because on some level I wanted to be pushed into making changes.

Craig started grilling in early evening, and I wandered in and out of the house with a glass in my hand, spending time with him on the patio and doing projects in the house. Coincidentally, I also had several rather intense phone calls, during which the people I was speaking to chose this particular Sunday to share dramatic life updates with me. I had a mixture of feelings, concentrating hard on listening to the callers and responding appropriately to important sharings, feeling joyful that people were talking to me about real things (it doesn't get any better than that, in my opinion), and enjoying the fresh breeze on the patio...well, not exactly fresh, what with Craig's 4 kinds of meat blazing on the grill and his chimenea (which we pretend helps with mosquitos and flies) going full steam (full smoke).

I was using a rather small wine glass and refilling it with colder wine from the refrigerator before it got empty, but I can't pretend I didn't know how much I was drinking because I never turn off that part of my awareness - I took note of the falling level in the bottle and knew I was past my usual limit. Worse, I was drinking very quickly, and losing touch with physical warning signs.

After my last phone call I sat down at our computer, changed my blog background to purple to go with my new creative vision, changed the text to white so it would show on the purple, and wanted to start a new posting...but I knew that would be a big project so was reluctant to get started...and at some point I sent two emails. Ladies & gentlemen of the sobriety jury, this was my first element of blacking out - I had no memory of having sent the emails until I noticed them in my Sent folder, two days later. Both messages were perfectly coherent and appropriate - they sounded like Sarah - but I hadn't remembered sending them.

After the blogging, my next memory is of being in the kitchen, so Craig must have pulled me out of the office with his caveman ploy, ordering me to make him a side dish for his grilled meat. When he went to the store earlier for his meats-to-grill (he doesn't buy real groceries, just shops when it's time to grill), he also bought a can of okra and one of collard greens, which he seemed excited about although I figured they would taste pretty darn nasty. (I like these vegetables fresh or frozen, but canned...?) I struggled with the can opener, but I do that sober too (it's a very cheap opener and the blade arm always falls off), and then I drained the green stuff and poured each can into one side of a Pyrex pie dish. The two vegetables did mingle a bit but I didn't think that mattered. I was more concerned by the extra liquid in the dish (apparently my draining hadn't been very thorough, but then, those particular vegetables hold a lot of liquid) but there wasn't a good way to get it out at that point. I turned the microwave on for 2 minutes - for some reason I am very clear on that, I guess because I have certain microwave timings that I like to use (excuse me for this boring detail meant to illustrate my presence of mind), 3.30 minutes for my favorite mac & cheese, 2 minutes for refrigerated leftovers, 4 minutes and turn/stir for frozen things.

I asked Craig if the side dish met his standards and he laughingly said no, "Your presentation sucks!" I couldn't argue with him, since I had offered him the stuff still in the Pyrex. I think it was his idea to put butter on it - he asked me if we had real butter (he pretends he is too good for margarine, although he eats it all the time, unknowingly). I pulled out a stick of butter (probably past the expiration date since I haven't baked in ages, but I didn't check since Craig is convinced expiration dates are a marketing ploy anyway), only dropped it once, cut an appropriate sized piece and put the rest back in the proper place in the refrigerator (I know this, because I checked the next morning, on the hunt for more signs of drunkenness). I don't know what kind of dish I melted it in (Craig loaded the dishwasher that night) or how long I melted it for (maybe my other standard timing, 1 minute?), but I dimly remember watching butter pour, so I guess I was the person who buttered the vegetables.

I next remember acknowledging I had had too much to drink and needed to lie down. Craig, thinking it would help, brought me a glass of water with a straw - very sweet of him, but I promptly spilled the water and then had to call for him to come clean it up, since I didn't want to raise my head from the bed.

Unbelievably, I woke up just a couple of hours later, didn't feel too bad and made myself something to eat - actually, soy mac & cheese, my cure for many things. Craig had cleaned up the kitchen and the dishwasher was whirring - the house seemed in control. I started in with my usual kind of chat, that my dad had told me he wasn't sure who would sleep where at Easter (our use of his guest room was in question), and speculated that maybe I should have had Craig take me to the emergency room to get a charcoal dose for all the alcohol...Craig said to both comments that I was repeating myself from earlier. He doesn't have a very good memory but since only a few hours had gone by, I had to take his word that I was repeating to him things I had absolutely no memory of having uttered earlier. (But like with the emails, what I said to him was perfectly coherent and in character - Sarah remained in control..except for the water glass...and the okra...)

My anxiety medication probably made the disorientation worse, but that's no excuse, and obviously being on medication is another reason I should not be drinking in large quantities. Anyway...Sarah is doing better now and will try to keep doing so.

And a P.S. - the state of morning-after remorse welcomes punishment, and I got mine the next morning when I had to package all of Craig's leftover meat for the freezer. He refrigerated it but I had to pick up with my hands all the slimy pieces from the trays he used in the fridge, letting the red meat juices drip off, had to wash the greasy, bloody trays, and had to smell the cheap beer he had used to marinate the bratwurst...quite a sensory load for 7 a.m.

While looking for a photo image of a pile of cut okra, I also found a fancy shot of okra on a plate - the presentation on the right might be what Craig wanted and didn't get from me.


Anonymous said...

Great narrative! I am a bit confused: were you in Tomball when you had your blackout? I only did a quick read, so perhaps it's obvious in the post.

SarahBowie said...

It was the weekend before Tomball, at my house - the timing was, I had the blackout before Tomball, then with the memory of the blackout still so vivid I did not drink in Tomball (just ate fries).

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I think if I had to serve/look at/eat canned okra or greens, I might consider the bottomless wineglass as necessary. NNo amount of butter could overcome this, but I'm some kind of food snob. I might have added a pinch of cayennne, or lemon. But hey, if it made Craig happy, that's fine. Amy