Liquor & Leaves #4

LL04

Snow day liquor: St. Charles Punch, at the Old Pal
Snow day leaves: My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman

Tuesday afternoon snow flurries in Athens shut the town down, and it was glorious. That evening, I took a two-hour walk through the neighborhood into downtown, slipsliding on iced-over streets, watching kids make sleds out of trashcan lids, grinning aimlessly at happy dogs and the people they owned crunching through what turned out to be less than four inches of solid white. Still, it was enough to give the Classic City a glimmer and sheen, a joy in the air. At Hendershots, I warmed my hands over a cappuccino, read The Sun, and eavesdropped on community-college kids comparing the virtues of Cici’s and Stevi B’s pizza buffets. (They both suck, kids. But I get it–I’m been broke and young, too.) The University called in sick the next day, so my Wednesday meant more walking, bundled up in my trusty harborcoat, fedora, and scarf. This time, I ended up not at a coffeeshop but my favorite local bar (The Old Pal), nestled in the Bermuda Triangle of bars–three within one block of Prince Avenue–at 1pm, angling for a cocktail. I had three. Hey, I didn’t have work or shit-all to do. Daniel made me a St. Charles Punch, which apparently isn’t on the menu anymore but which he can make blindfolded. Fruity, a little thick on the tongue, with a citrus bite and a gorgeous deep purple (complete with soft velvety foam), it’s a lovely, lovely drink. Oh, the book: What can I say? I’m trying to grow into my Christianity, into what I think of as my faith and the ethical commitment that comes with adhering to a faith. But it’s hard. You knew that–that’s nothing new. But, in the Evangelical South, it’s even harder, if you’re college-educated, you’re not a biblical literalist (and in fact think that mindset’s half-silly and half-extremely dangerous), politically and socially progressive, sex-positive, and not convinced that the modern world’s something to simply keep at bay or that that’s even possible. So, it’s refreshing to read a book–recommended by a friend–by a modern believer, and a poet to boot, who’s coming back to Christianity, albeit a very different Christianity than the one he left, after a long absence. He registers the deep distrust of Christian institutions, the sometimes crushing questions and doubts that remain even once you acknowledge faith, and the ways in which the creative life offers both balm as proof of God’s grace and unintended distraction from finding that grace. Poetry is where Wiman finds God best, in all God’s complexity and pain and beauty. That makes sense–Wiman once edited Poetry, after all. But his poet’s prose is dense and musical and meandering, befitting a man who compresses language to its essence for a living, and I’ve established that I’m not the most gifted reader of poetry. So, it’s a slim book that’s rough sledding. Not bad, just hard. Nothing loosens the synapses and lets me let more light in than a good cocktail, a warm bar, and snowfall setting onto grass, roofs, trees, and the shoulders of grateful, surprised southerners on a January afternoon.

 

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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One Response to Liquor & Leaves #4

  1. I am really glad an “almost” snow day (we are not due in till 10 a.m.) gave me room to read this.

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