Lorette C. Luzajic continues her Wine and Art Series with in vino solo…
It doesn’t matter how much you drink: if you’re surrounded by others doing it too, it’s much more acceptable somehow.
The solo sipper can’t shake the stigma of sorry alcoholic, from nothing but the fact that she is by herself.
The lone ranger is clearly a danger to herself and others – otherwise, why does she furtively imbibe when no one’s looking?
Being a party of one must mean secrecy, maladjusted emotions, alienation, and some sort of deception, or keeping cover.
Spoiler alert: my solitary affair is no secret.
I wouldn’t ever whitewash my main remaining vice. I am more passionate about wine, and lots of it, than I am about anything. I’m well aware that my love means sacrificing some brain cells, prevents me from getting too svelte, and keeps me enslaved to Master Card. But how is that any different from social guzzling? I’m merely saying that of all my favourite ways to partake of the holy grape, drinking alone is my favouritest.
I insist on wine at art openings and anywhere I dine after five. And a heart to heart with a friend or a lover requires a ritual uncorking and the ensuing communion of the shared bottle. But as an introvert, I enjoy most activities most often in my own company. Drinking is no exception.
Drinking alone might summon thoughts of sordid sloth and gluttony, of a sad, pathetic absence of other possibilities. It smacks of desperation, of Hungry Man dinners steaming from the microwave.
Really? What if said poor slob was really home alone, with a fine cigar and La Traviata, stirring kale and shallots with scallops and Piri Piri, and sipping a crisp Viognier?
I don’t even own a microwave.
Like some gothic, pre-Raphaelite broad, I roam my small halls in a floor length black nightgown, balancing a crystal tumbler and a few spattered paint brushes. There’s a divine window of inspiration in wine and making art, or wine and penning poems. A chorus of candles is always shining in the dark at my place, especially when no one else is home. I take a stab at the canvas. I randomly pull a slim volume from my collection of a thousand books of poetry. Most social situations don’t afford the opportunity to read or write poetry, by candlelight or otherwise.
It is a brief slice of time, admittedly, that window of inspiration, but precious, and it has been part of the creativity that has blessed the world. The use of wine and worse is legendary among writers and composers and painters. While we have certainly been known to take it too far, with heaps of ruined lives attracting flies through the pages of history, still, the mystery of intoxication and creation cannot be erased. Christopher Hitchens, the infamously acerbic atheist understood. “Alcohol can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing,” he wrote.
At the risk of romanticizing the tragic lives of the artists, there is something to be said for the fantasy of Mozart, rumpled in purple velvet after some wild Vienna masquerade, slumped over the piano with a quill and a sonata and a pitcher of booze.
Drinking alone is a more honest confrontation with the self than time used more wisely. Do practical tasks and submissive entertainment consumption bring a lone soul closer to the truth, or are they avoiding a deeper immersion?
Hemingway said, “Write drunk, and edit sober,” an astute assessment of creative strategy if there ever was one. (Never mind, for now, that this probably was never uttered by Hemingway, and was first stated by a character after poet Dylan Thomas by almost-forgotten novelist Peter De Vries.)
I would avoid the term “drunk” as too blatant, too extreme. Hemingway, of course, didn’t mince words or cushion them in flowery disguises or banal platitudes. (As an aside, De Vries was not so succinct).
While you can’t create much of value below a certain line in the decanter, the dance until that point permits us to ignore our censoring inhibitions. Relaxation gives permission to feel and express. Indeed, the not-Hemingway’s motto is how I write these columns, and what could be a better formula for the subject? I sip blissfully and pen away, then edit and revise in the light of the following day.
Here’s another thing: the next best reason to drink alone is that it is the perfect occasion for favourite bottles and new encounters.
It’s disappointing when a prize mouthful goes unnoticed after you pour for a colleague, and you think hauling out a box of French Cross would have been a better investment. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not a wine snob, and quite willing to swill Domain D’Or out of a coffee mug if the occasion arises. But a special glass calls for special adjectives, attention turned to the inner thesaurus, and a discussion about amines and notes of cedar or juniper. It’s always crushing when you’re about to launch into a rapture about hyacinth jam and bitter melon and your date says, “Tastes kind of like cat pee- should we tell the waitress?”
A better date is an empty canvas and a full bottle.
Chunky Australian Shiraz is like a gentleman caller with a twang. From the first mouthful of tobacco, to the tangy second note, to the clean closure and the ensuing empty palate, this attractive lover is an artful conversationalist. He is a man of good taste, and good breeding, but something wild beats in his heart and there’s something of the cowboy in his step.
Tempranillo Crianza is another kind of dance partner: harder but frillier, too, grand gestures like the ruffle of a flamenco skirt. When I travel, there is a real magic in drinking wine without accompaniment in all the corners of the world. Notebook open, eyes open, relaxing in a strange hemisphere. You have to wash down ceviche or bull tail soup with something, and it may as well be wine.
As with drinking alone, dining alone has a stigma of its own, but eating is an activity I love with or without a companion. Why shortchange the experience just because no one else is there, or you’re solo, in a hurry? Good food is as easy as bad, with or without company. I love slicing up vegetables and seasoning seafood in my humble abode. What could be more sensual than dancing in my kitchen barefoot, drenching pork in chiles and mustard, topping up the Pinot Grigio from time to time?
I can’t conjure my collage paintings in the presence of others, whether it’s my mate or my mother or my date or my brother. I scrawl snippets, scraps, sonnets, on the subway, but better with a sprig of parsley and a jug of ruddy sludge on my sofa, when no one else is around.
Most of the time, it’s seven or eleven in the morning and I’m as clear as a bell, gluing torn up tidbits and swiping pigments into form in the clear light of the ordinary workday. Or more often, drawing up proposals or editing or administrative tasks. And so, with all that hard work, so what, if now again, or weekly, I indulge in a special tryst with a private dancer, a sparkling flute of inspiration and introspection? Why should I not give space to the mystic magic river and swig back the claret comfort of a Cabernet while poring through pages of Picasso and Cornell’s curious boxes of ballerinas?
In some ways, sipping solo and listening to opera is skipping out on the world.
In other ways, it’s all about being more engaged, getting closer.
And so, if you’re looking for me out there, and I am not there, I am here. You know where to find me.
Lorette C. Luzajic is an award-winning mixed media visual artist from Toronto, Ontario, whose collage paintings are internationally collected. Her art has been featured on a 20 foot billboard in New Orleans, on reality TV, and in ad campaign for Carrera Y Carrera, a Madrid-based luxury jewelry brand. She is a widely published poet and writer, nominated twice each for Best of the Net and the Pushcart literary prizes. She is the editor of The Ekphrastic Review, a journal devoted to writing inspired by art. Her most recent book is Pretty Time Machine: ekphrastic prose poems. Visit her at www.mixedupmedia.ca.