I promised Anna I would write about this week's New Yorker piece on hangovers as soon as I got a hangover, and I thought today might be the day. Lord knows I did my best to lay the foundations. But I'm on too much of a bender to be blessed with many hangovers right now. An egg-and-cheese and an ibuprofen and a coconut juice for electrolytes and an Adderall and a cup of coffee and another cup of coffee and my own high tolerance and all I have for you is that angry slight mass in the gut that reminds you you were bad last night. It's hard and nasty and gaseous but neither combustible nor debilitating. This is actually, it turns out, according to the New Yorker, a sensation indicative of an actual chemical change transpiring in one's liver, or more accurately, the putting off of that change, the breakdown of methanol.
Methanol is the extra stuff in whiskey and wine and beer, which are, IMHO, the only alcoholic beverages really worth drinking. Breaking it down is the most painful part of the hangover process. If you give your liver other things to work on — eggs, grease — you can assuage the pain. But then there's the matter of assuaging the guilt.
See, Kingsley Amis knows what I'm talking about:
Feeling bad isn't such a bad thing, from Amis's point of view. With its "vast, vague, awful, shimmering metaphysical superstructure" of guilt and shame, the hangover provides a "unique route to self-knowledge and self-realization." In his book "On Drink," Amis recommends a raft of remedies for the Physical Hangover and then gets on to the Metaphysical Hangover, a combination of "anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future" that may or may not be the result of alcoholic overindulgence. Dealing with the Metaphysical part of the equation entails reading Solzhenitsyn, which "will do you the important service of suggesting that there are plenty of people about who have a bloody sight more to put up with than you (or I) have or ever will have."
The last time I was truly hungover, so many, many beverages ago — which is to say, last Saturday morning — I managed to get to a bookstore before the methanol began breaking down, leaving me unable to stand. So I picked up the first book I noticed — The Idiot, great title, and sat in the corner on the floor. I stood up sometime after coming to a passage wherein the protagonist, a Christ-y figure, passionately inveighs against the notion that the guillotine, rendering decapitation swift and painless, represents the most humane method of executing someone:
If there were torture, for instance, there would be suffering and wounds, bodily agony, and so all that would distract the mind from spiritual suffering, so that one would only be tortured by wounds till one died.
And I read that and I began to feel guilty for needing, like Amis, that physical suffering to stir up and reestablish my own spiritual suffering, the limited faculties that accompany a Morning After to truly hone in on Why Get Up At All, when…
Yeah, we are all just way too fucking Catholic. No wonder my people all evolved into drunks.
I would like to say "And then I hurled," but I can't hurl; that's probably a Catholic thing too.