Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Way

I quite possibly need a disclaimer for this blog:
I am in no way advocating the consumption of or over-indulgence in alcohol.  Any conclusions of this sort, drawn from reading my words, are merely the little demonic thought mongers who live inside the person reading.

Remember Leonilda?  The resident at the park, who a year ago, left a voice message asking the rules and regulations with regard to spray-painting her trailer. She expressed concern she might accidently spray one of her neighbors' units in the process… 
I returned her call, after pouring myself a strong, bubbly one and she answered after 4 rings. 
I was polite, professional and steady.  (I’d only had a couple sips.) 
After giving her a well crafted, polished pitch, she replied,
"Valerie, I gotta go.
 Could you please call me back at another time because I’m drunk right now."

Why certainly, Leonilda.  I wish to hell I was, but it’s only 3:15 on a Tuesday afternoon.  
You might’ve already conjured up a “judgment talk-bubble” above your head right about now, but look friends, the hard cold truth is that Leonilda has to spray paint her own house because she can’t afford to hire a professional painter to do the job.
Leonilda also drinks cheap booze, quietly in her trailer, because, one, she can’t afford to go out on the town and get liquored up at some high-class bistro, snazzy restaurant or wine bar and two, she most likely has agoraphobia and is scared to death of the world.   Millions of Americans fall into this plight.   And you may ask of me, “Where does your judgment lie, tpg?” and I must tell you, “It’s certainly NOT with Leonilda!”

My judgment lies at the corner of Hypocrisy Avenue and Greed Lane.  Plain and simple.  
Black and white with not an inch for gray. Everybody drinks.  The whole damn world drinks.
And if you are in the minority who don't partake; my guess is that you once did.  People drink to elude pain.  People stop drinking because of pain.  People drink to feel good.  People stop when they feel just a little too good…people drink to avoid things, and those sober folks, who don’t avoid things, chain smoke and cry all the time.  People drink to loosen up.  People stop drinking because they get so loose, it lands them in prison.  People drink to expand the horizons of their creativity.  People stop because the expansion of that horizon put them in bankruptcy. 
Folks drink because it’s a prerequisite of watching the NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA,WWE, and PGA just to name a few.
It’s an accepted national pastime much like gabbling at “Indian Casinos” and yet, Lord forbid and strike me dead as roadkill, if we should legalize weed. 
I remember my dad mumbling some gibberish when I was in my teens about “all the low lifers hooked on pot” all the while pouring himself his 4th or 5th glass of Scotch.  And I remember a friend’s mother once saying,  “Don’t give homeless people any money.  They’ll just spend it on alcohol.” And then we’d go out for a glass of $8 Cabernet.

I often give $5 bucks and hope the homeless person does buy some comfort.  I mean, I would if all I had to my name was one torn flannel, a pair of ragged sweats and worn-out shoes and all of my life’s possessions fit in a single shopping cart?  Hell, we all might buy a beer in that situation!

All this talk of drinking prods me to a different tangent.   Now this wasn’t a “drinking flick,” per say, but there was a helluva lot of wine flowing in the film I saw last night called The Way.  
Pretty much wine and open road in just about every frame.  Of course, that’s ok because it takes place in Spain.
The Way is written and directed by Emilio Estevez and stars his father Martin Sheen.  Some have said it depicts a “spiritual journey” and had I read those reviews prior, I would have bought a ticket to The Ides of March.  Luckily, I didn’t read any reviews, including the one written by Pastor Rick Warren who LOVED the film as much as I did. 
The Way is about a ragtag quartet of seekers who walk the 800-mile pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago; a trek from the Pyrenees to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the burial place of St. James.
It’s filled with dusty country roads and lots of vino.  But it’s also filled with revealing, moving dialogue and intentional silence that still has me pondering it 24 hours later.

Not being of the Southern Baptist persuasion like Pastor Warren (Although, I did dabble a bit in the ‘70’s) and not being Catholic like the multitudes of peasants and gypsies who shower the travelers with wine and wisdom, then bless them with a “Buen Camino” and send them on their journey…I must admit, I was spiritually moved by the film.

I think it was the glaring realization that a part of myself was in each individual trekker: 
Tom’s resistance and deeply rooted anger… Jack from Ireland’s internal struggles with writer’s block and self-doubt, which go disgustingly hand in hand…Joost’s outward veil of kindness and innocence…Sarah’s sharp tongue and sarcastic armor. 
Emilio Estevez, as if peeling a ripe orange, slowly and artfully strips away layer after layer of each characters’ skin until we are left looking, not only at them, but more importantly, 
at our own self in the mirror.

This leads me to a point and that’s always a comforting destination to reach, isn’t it? 
I find this almost essential if we are to live a true and genuine life:  Taking a hard look into that mirror each and every day.  While standing there, naked and vulnerable, we must relinquish all masks and allow for the peeling away of layer upon layer of the bullshit.  If we can bring all of our vices, all our truths, all our ironies, hypocrisies and imperfections to the surface and make eye contact with only our self, we might truly find the way to some sort of grace.  Because it is there, in front of our own individual mirrors, that we admit to our imperfections as humans; 
no better or worse than anyone else.  Then and only then, can we accept the Leonildas, the mothers of friends, the Rick Warrens, the dads who drink Scotch, the homeless on our streets, the dude who puts you down each day… 
And when we truthfully do this, we benefit and in some way, the world does too.

Oh boys and girls, it’s beginning to sound like a pulpit, so I’ll step down!
Check out The Way.  Maybe consider hiding a small bottle of your favorite libation in your backpack to go along with the buttered popcorn.


  1. I'll drink to that, Val. That was damn good. "The Way" is on the list now.

  2. Awww...I am going to have to check this film out (with a flask of wine of course!). I always love reading your blogs, Val. I appreciate your style. Honest, funny, deep, thoughtful, and entertaining. I think I might have missed a few from where I left off so this weekend I can catch up on what ever happened with Leonilda.

  3. Powerful blog, Val. Read it through several times and am pondering it still. The layers I've voluntarily or (finally, when my hand was called) been forced to peel away. The layers yet to go. Looking in that mirror is truly humbling and never easy. A life's worth of work...hope I stay around long enough to make some progress. Only progress, though... not ever perfection...which includes a good measure of grace for "the other." As Louie Armstrong sang, "What a wonderful world this would be."