Cosas Que Leo #7: JOLLY LAD, John Doran

Jolly Lad Doran

“There was dirt, horror and disfigurement everywhere I looked. But after one stiff drink I could leave the house; after two drinks the fear started lifting and after the third drink I’d feel like an artist. Or to be more precise, I would see the world through the eyes of an artist. And after five drinks, well, I could take my pick of them. On a good day I felt like Picasso. But there were all kinds of days. Imagine being Gustav Klimt in Hull, the golden light of the low winter sun at 3pm in the afternoon radiating along The Avenues. Imagine being Walter Sickert in Manchester, the violent brown and black smudges radiating from your feet and along canal towpaths. Imagine being Vincent van Gogh in St Helens, the sky ablaze with stars. That is something close to victory, something close to beating death.

They laughed at me and called me a piss artist. And how right they were. I was an aesthete with a broken nose in a stained shirt and inside-out boxer shorts, drinking the world beautiful.

When you drink constantly, you become numb, slipping down into a sub-life, a waking coma. You become a chaotic ghost that exists almost at one step removed from everything else. You float through the film of your own life. You see the sublime in the augury of fried chicken bones and tomato sauce cast upon the upper deck floor of a bus. You can divine a narrative among the finger-drawn doodles on the misted windows. You can feel your destiny in hundreds of individual condensation droplets on the glass turning red, then amber, then green.

Everything that you’d worried about a few hours previously… Where will I get the money from? What if he beats me up? Am I seriously ill? Am I dying? Have I got cancer? What will she say when I finally get home a week late? Will she cry when we eventually go to bed together? Will she pack her things and leave the next day? How near is death? What will it be like? Will I scream and cry? What is it like to die? And now, after some drinks, there is just the sweet sensation of your life passing you by with no struggle and no fuss. The rope slides through your fingers with no friction, just warmth as a balloon rises higher and higher out of sight. I have bottles and bottles and bottles and my phone is out of credit. A Mark Rothko night. A Jackson Pollock night…

This is the eternal holiday of the alcoholic. Once you create as much distance from your everyday life as you naturally have from orange tinted Polaroids of childhood caravan trips or stays in seaside hotels and Super 8 film reels of school sports days, then you start to experience your quotidian life like it’s the sunbleached memory of a happy event. You feel nostalgia and warmth for boring events that are unfolding right in front of you. You feel wistful about experiences that most people would find barbaric or gauche or unremarkable. You experience the epic, the heartwarming and the hilarious in post office and supermarket queues. You develop permanently rose-tinted glasses.

But there’s no getting away from it, after a while the strategy starts failing. You start seeing everything through the eyes of Francis Bacon, through the eyes of Edvard Munch, through the eyes of HR Giger… Your vision becomes stained and cracked.”

Jolly Lad

JOHN DORAN

Strange Attractor Press, 2015

295 págs.