I hate starting sentences with ‘so’, but I’m afraid there’s no other way to start this story.
And I’m not talking AA meetings of the Jesus-is-going-to-hold-your-pathetic-little-hand-while-you-try-and-keep-on-the-straight-and-narrow kind. What that they don’t tell you is that Jesus, the Omnipotent One, sometimes has a couple of shots of a tequila in Mexico City, a couple of bourbons in Tennessee, a few pints of Guinness in Ireland, a couple of beers in Prague, a bottle of red in the Franchhoek valley, and so on. This all in a day’s work. Omnipotent indeed. He got so desperate once, he even turned water into wine. (I kind of envy the Lord for that. Wouldn’t it be cool to turn Newlands into a marijuana plantation?)
Anyway, don’t hold my hand, thanks very much. I’ll just mosey along and see where the road takes me.
The water-into-wine story came up in one of the very first AA meetings I attended:
Bronwyn White, our AA chairperson (aka ‘ritual leader’ for the evening), a hippo of a woman with a voice like a lawnmower—its blades set too low to the ground—made the mistake of mentioning the miracle in response to (and—bless her soul—as a means of inspiration for) Teddy ‘Smirnoff’ Smythe to give up booze.
Teddy had mentioned that he had had a bottle of vodka and three shots of absinth before the start of the meeting. And a little cocaine (though he wasn’t sure if it had been Angel Dust because when he farted in the men’s room earlier he was certain it smelled like OMO washing powder).
Teddy was in a state. Teddy had been attending AA meetings for eight years. See where I’m going with this?
“You can stop drinking, Teddy. You can, you can, you can,” Bronwyn said.
“I think I can, I know I can. It’s just—” said Teddy.
Jesus, I’m trapped in the pages of The Little Engine that Could.
“—it’s just impossible, Bronwyn,” Teddy said.
“No.” Rising tone. Bronwyn holds one finger up like a primary school teacher who’s just discovered that one of the boys at the back (a younger Teddy Smyth minus the ‘Smirnoff’ and without the pock marks and dried spittle crusts in the corners of his mouth, perhaps) was having a wank under the desk. “No. No. No. Nothing is impossible, Teddy. Jesus turned water into wine. Did you know that?”
Seven other people were definitely aware of the fact because they got up like one man and marched straight to the liquor store around the corner.
Like Jesus, I envy the store owners, the Patels, a young Indian couple who left the streets of Mumbai and somehow made it to Cape Town with their four-year old daughter.
Mr Patel is a sharp businessman who noticed all the drunks coming and going, and decided to open the ‘The Thirsty Camel’ liquor store on one side (easy access for the AA members during the day until 6pm), and The Thirsty Camel bar on the other side (6pm – midnight). The Patels make an absolute killing, and they sell the best hashish in the Cape Peninsula.
Plus, I kinda fancy Mrs Patel. Very much, actually.
So. AA meetings, eh?