“Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.”
First off, it’s funny. It’s cynical, it’s witty, and it’s simply, sharply, darkly funny. “That’s too close to home,” my student said, but he said it with a wry smile. There’s room in the world for thought and inspiration, kindness and dedication, but the world’s too big for just those. Isn’t there room for a little dark laughter, too? Isn’t there room for wryly pointing out the mistakes we make?
Secondly, I like that this quote points out so clearly a hurt I sometimes feel. Sometimes the earth we thought would hold us becomes so much mist and smoke beneath our feet. Sometimes magic does become routine. Sometimes the wind doesn’t sing. In those times, we can try to make things ‘better’ by “taking the girl’s clothes off:” by forcing our experience a little further, by trying to rush a little closer, by insisting, like a loud drunk, a little more on life as we expect it to be. That doesn’t usually work.
We can also make ice cubes out of the ice that’s freezing us, mix them and some water with the fire that we’re afraid will burn us up, and have ourselves a drink. “You know what you can do with darkness?” Chandler asks. “Face it, name it, and don’t be so damn serious about it.” You can stick a cigar in the side of your mouth (though I don’t plan to light it), pour yourself a glass of something that burns, and grin your teeth at the world. And why not? At the dinner party I’m putting together, there’s room for Chandler, too. Anything truly holy will survive a little irreverence.
Looking too much for the beauty you thought would be here can be just as blinding as turning your face to the wall. It’s exhausting to try and be Thoughtful and Wise all the time. Instead, Chandler’s books often end with the lonely middle-aged loss of a man who’s figured out a mystery for someone else, but can’t figure out much for himself. He goes back alone to his dim apartment and the dust, puts that morning’s coffee cup in the sink without washing it, and sits, pondering the problems he won’t work out. Yeah, this is my buddy Chandler, and this is me; we’re not always like this, but we’re like this sometimes. It isn’t what we want to do, but sometimes it’s what we end up doing. And it sure is a relief to stop trying to look so Impressive for a while.